Ruth Marcus writes about the Connecticut state’s attorney’s report on the Sandy Hook murderer, and in particular Nancy Lanza’s home life with her son:
“The mother did the shooter’s laundry on a daily basis as the shooter often changed clothing during the day.”
That matter-of-fact recitation, from the just-released official report on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, encapsulates the enduring contradiction of Nancy Lanza, shot four times in her bed with her .22-caliber Savage Mark II rifle.
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The state’s attorney’s report documents this dogged maternal determination: “The mother took care of all of the shooter’s needs. The mother indicated that she did not work because of her son’s condition. She worried about what would happen to the shooter if anything happened to her.”
Nancy Lanza structured her life around her son’s peculiarities. Workers at the house “were instructed never to ring the doorbell and to make prior arrangements before using power equipment as her son had issues with loud noises.”
Adam Lanza “was particular about the food that he ate and its arrangement on a plate in relation to other foods on the plate. Certain types of dishware could not be used for particular foods. The mother would shop for him and cook to the shooter’s specifications.” When Nancy Lanza considered moving to Washington state so that Adam could attend a special school, she planned to buy a recreational vehicle “as he would not sleep in a hotel.”
Birthdays, Christmas and holidays were not to be celebrated. “He would not allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree.The mother explained it by saying that [the] shooter had no emotions or feelings. The mother also got rid of a cat because the shooter did not want it in the house.”
None of this could have been easy. Although they lived in the same house, Adam “would only communicate with her by email.” According to one witness interviewed, “when his mother asked him if he would feel bad if anything happened to her, he replied, ‘No.’ ”
How would we react to a person who treated his romantic partner this way? Would we be surprised in the end that he killed her, when this appears to be the end result of so many cases of domestic violence? This description of the murderer makes him sound like an abusive partner, controlling his mother with his anger. Last year in the aftermath of the massacre, I noted that I’ve almost never heard of an uncommunicative, friendless, unempathetic daughter in her late teens or early 20s whose social isolation is indulged by her parents, and yet that’s become a typical-profile of male mass-murderers in the past 15 years.
Why should this be tolerated by any parent of an adult child any more than we think it should be tolerated by anyone in an abusive domestic partnership? At what point does Nancy Lanza’s accommodation of her son’s sensory integration disorder become him controlling or even abusing her? (Maybe another way to ask this question is: what’s the line between his disability and being an entitled jerk?) Would any therapist have advised her to live with him treating her like this? And finally: what–given his lack of empathy–made her think that giving him access to firearms was a good idea?