Crystal Clear

4 min read

This is the late 20-year old Adam Lanza. You might recognize his name. The alarming, dazed expression in his picture helps capture the outer-layer of a young man deeply lost within a downward spiral of multiple serious mental conditions.

In the morning hours of December 14th, 2012, Lanza shot and killed his mother at their home in rural Connecticut, and drove in her car with multiple assault-style firearms to his old elementary school, Sandy Hook.

Here, he shot and killed 20 children, six adults, and later himself. The Sandy Hook shooting is an unspeakable tragedy and evil act that has been remembered worldwide as exactly that. Shortly after the shooting, Lanza’s complicated life and disturbed mental state were slowly revealed. 

Sandy Hook Elementary (Courtesy of CNN)

Something was crystal clear: Lanza needed help years before the shooting ever took place, and he never got it. He suffered from sensory integration disorder, autism, anxiety, OCD, undiagnosed schizophrenia, undiagnosed psychosis, and anorexia nervosa. These are serious mental conditions that, when paired with a strange obsession with violence, concoct a recipe for senseless tragedy.

When Lanza was 14, his parents had him admitted to Yale University’s Child Study Center. Here, he was diagnosed with OCD. The center observed that he obsessed over washing his hands, changed his socks up to 20 times a day, and went through boxes of tissues because he refused to touch doorknobs with his bare hands. He was treated by Clinical Psychologist Robert King and was prescribed Celexa.

An excerpt from Robert King’s evaluation of Lanza, done at the Yale University Child Study Center (Courtesy of the Hartford Courant)

He took the medication for three days before becoming almost vegetative. He lost the fine motor skills to do simple tasks and had sweat dripping off his hands. He never took it again, and Yale University’s advice for extensive support, ongoing expert consultation, and lifelong therapeutic supports went almost entirely ignored.

Lanza’s last apparent contact with any mental healthcare provider was in 2006. Yale was the only institution to show any sort of concern about Lanza’s mental state. He is assumed to have been psychotic as early as 2010.

After the shooting, investigators began to dig deeper into his home life. Lanza was a recluse, living in a blocked-off area of his mother’s house. Nobody was permitted entry apart from him. His room was almost empty, with mute, plain furniture. Black garbage bags were taped to the windows to block out sunlight. His desktop computer files included videos of gunshot-suicides, an essay on Pedophilia, and The Big Book of Granny, a 52-page picture book written by Lanza himself, depicting familicide.

Lanza’s Bedroom. Notice the bare minimum furnishing and the garbage bags over the windows (Courtesy of Business Insider)
The Big Book of Granny (Courtesy of the FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit)

Lanza’s final months were completely controlled by his crippling anxiety and isolation. His mental state got worse every day he was left inside. At the time of his death, Adam was 6 feet tall, 112 pounds. According to a report by the Office of the Child Advocate in Connecticut, Adam began suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. This is malnutrition to the point of subsequent brain damage, cognitive impairment, and, when compounded with OCD, causes the likelihood to commit suicide to skyrocket.

He was living in total isolation in his room and game basement, only communicating with his mother through email, where he appeared to communicate the resentment he held for her. He spent the majority of his time writing and sharing his strange obsession for mass-murder with others online.

In the weeks before the Sandy Hook shooting, Lanza’s mother planned to move to another town with him and planned to purchase an RV for him to live in. According to the Report of the Child Advocate, this stimulated Lanza’s fear of leaving the apparent immense comfort zone of his bedroom. 

That seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Lanza’s mental state had finally reached rock bottom. He began viewing other human beings as cardboard cutouts, nothing more than inanimate figures meant only to appease him. Background figures in his movie.

Soon, December 14th came. Lanza woke up, and with unrestricted access to his gun-enthusiast mother’s extensive firearm collection, fatally shot her as she slept. He took her car keys and drove 5 miles to Sandy Hook Elementary where he proceeded to enact his deepest fantasy – one of the deadliest and most senseless tragedies the country has ever seen.

He took her car keys and drove 5 miles to Sandy Hook Elementary where he proceeded to enact his deepest fantasy — one of the deadliest and most senseless tragedies the country has ever seen.

Lanza first entered the school at 9:35 A.M. The last gunshot, self-inflicted, rang out at 9:40. Within five minutes, Lanza killed 26 people. Survivors report Lanza ordering small children to “Look at me,” before shooting them. Investigators have been collectively unable to find a motive, however, an online chatroom log may help provide a glimpse into his thoughts around the subject of killing.

“I incessantly have nothing other than scorn for humanity,” Lanza wrote in an undated message to an internet acquaintance. “I have been desperate to feel anything positive for someone for my entire life.”

“All of them are typical detestable human beings, and it bred an aura of innumerable negative emotions for me,” he continued. “You were a respite from that.”

“Early on, you referenced serial killing multiple times in ways people normally don’t.”

 “That immediately appealed to me,” Lanza concluded.

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