KINGSTON, N.H. (AP) — More than 100 family and friends gathered at a church in a small New Hampshire town Saturday to remember the woman whose son massacred 20 first-graders and six educators in a Connecticut elementary school last year.
The mourners and a few musicians filed into the white clapboarded First Congregational Church in Kingston for the memorial of Nancy Lanza, the first victim of her 20-year-old son Adam’s rampage. She was shot dead in their home before he blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14. He killed himself as police closed in.
More than a dozen uniformed police officers from several agencies blocked off the street and guarded the church door, ensuring only friends and family were allowed into the service. Nancy Lanza grew up in New Hampshire and lived there before moving to Newtown in 1998.
Lanza’s brother, James Champion, is a Kingston police officer and still lives in the town.
A lone police bagpiper played as the processional arrived and lined up outside the church to enter together. Media outlets were kept 60 yards back across the street and behind yellow tape, and mourners declined to talk to reporters.
A few people wiped their eyes as they left the church.
Friends have said Nancy Lanza loved the Red Sox and gardening and talked of a growing enthusiasm for target shooting. The rifle and two handguns Adam Lanza took into Sandy Hook were registered to her.
But they also said she never talked about her home life, keeping details about her son private. She occasionally said she was concerned about the future, but she didn’t complain.
Nancy Lanza told a divorce mediator in 2009 that she didn’t like to leave her son alone. People who met him described him as shy and introverted. The mediator recalled that Nancy and Peter, who had married in June 1981 in Kingston but divorced several years ago, were respectful of each other and concerned about Adam’s needs. He’d switched schools several times and Nancy had tried home schooling.
The head of security for the district where Adam Lanza attended high school said Nancy Lanza often had to come to school to deal with him when he had episodes of anxiety or withdrawing from others.
The motive for her son’s killing spree is still unclear. Investigators have said mother and son visited shooting ranges together, and the victims killed at the school were all shot with a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that Adam Lanza took from the house he and his mother shared. That gun and the handgun he used to shoot himself had been legally purchased by his mother.
The massacre has revived the national gun control debate and led to proposals for universal background checks on gun buyers and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The Newtown massacre was the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history after the 2007 Virginia Tech rampage, which left 33 people dead.
Adam Lanza’s father claimed his remains and a family spokesman said there were private arrangements, but the burial location was not made public.
A private funeral attended by about 25 people was held for Nancy Lanza in Kingston on Dec. 20.