First funerals held in Newtown

Dec 18 2012 - 11:25am

NEWTOWN, Conn. - The first two funerals for the 26 people killed in the Newtown school massacre were held Monday under rainy, gray skies.

Families gathered to bury 6-year-olds Noah Samuel Pozner and Jack Armistead Pinto, according to the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association. They died alongside 24 classmates and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 after Adam Lanza, 20, stormed inside and sprayed hundreds of bullets with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle.

He later killed himself with a handgun.

Noah, the youngest victim, "was an impish, larger-than- life little boy" devoid of spite and meanness, according to an obituary published in the local press. Jack, a sports fan, "will forever be remembered for the immeasurable joy he brought to all who had the pleasure of knowing him, a joy whose wide reach belied his six short years," according to his obituary.

Investigators are working around the clock to interview witnesses and collect evidence from the two crime scenes - the school and the Lanza home, where Adam fatally shot his mother Nancy, 52, in her bed - in search of a motive for the second- deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

"The faculty, staff in that school did everything they could to protect those children," State Police Lt. Paul Vance said in a news briefing. "I can tell you the first responders, the active shooter team, entered the school and saved many lives. I can tell you it broke our hearts we couldn't save them all."

Memorials dot the landscape of Newtown, a community of 28,000 about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of New York City, now branded by the rampage as a symbol of

American gun violence. One display of 26 wooden angels has turned into a pilgrimage spot, about a half-mile from the school.

At a memorial at Newtown High School Sunday night, President Barack Obama spoke of a town's immeasurable pain and the nation's sorrow after meeting with families of those slain. His visit marked the fourth time during his presidency he has gone to a city to console relatives after a mass shooting

"Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts," Obama said. Sobs broke out in the front rows as he spoke.

All 26 children and adults killed were shot more than once, and some as many as 11 times, according to H. Wayne Carver II, the state's medical examiner. The victims ranged in age from 6 to 56. The children - 12 girls and eight boys - were all 6 or 7, and the adults were all women.

Child burials are difficult even for those whose job involves death every day, especially in a close-knit community, said John Cascio, the funeral association's executive director.

It was the deadliest U.S. massacre since 33 people died in a 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. This year, there have been at least seven mass murders in the U.S. - killings of four or more people - that claimed at least 65 lives.

"We can't tolerate this anymore," Obama said. "These tragedies must end."

Sandy Hook remains closed indefinitely, and police across the state have stepped up their presence at schools, Vance said.

Authorities are tracing the origins of the firearms Lanza used. The guns belonged to his mother, who was the first to die, according to a law-enforcement official who asked for anonymity because of a continuing investigation.

It may be weeks before authorities release details of the official investigation, and Vance said detectives have been unable to find any current connection between Lanza and the school. Meanwhile, family friends and acquaintances began filling in details on the life of the killer and his family.

Adam Lanza lived with his mother even as his parents shared joint legal custody under a 2009 divorce agreement, according to court records. He was on medication, Louise Tambascio, a friend of Nancy Lanza's for 12 years, told CBS's "60 Minutes." The mother didn't work so she could home-school her son, she said.
Ralph Strocchia, 17, who lives about a quarter-mile from the family home, recalled Adam as a high-school senior riding the school bus. The popular kids sat in the rear, and Lanza wasn't among them, he said.

"He didn't talk," Strocchia said in an interview. "Nobody knew him well."

Newtown school district personnel monitored Adam beginning in his freshman year after he stood out as "unusually withdrawn and socially maladroit," the Wall Street Journal reported.

"At that point in his life, he posed no threat to anyone else," said Richard J. Novia, the director of security at Newtown School District at the time, according to the newspaper. "We were worried about him being the victim or that he could hurt himself."

Lanza attempted to buy at least one gun before the shooting, said a federal law-enforcement official who asked for anonymity because the investigation was continuing. He didn't have any prior brushes with the law, Vance said.

Curt Brantl, whose fourth-grade daughter was in the school's library during the attack, said the funerals would be difficult.

"The town is full of grief and is desperate for some hope," he said Sunday night in an interview at the high-school memorial.

Some say these funerals should be the last of their sort. The president said that he would use his office to persuade Americans to prevent more such massacres, though he didn't offer concrete measures.

"We can't accept events like this as routine," he said.

Deprez reported from New York. Contributors: Michael B. Marois in Sacramento, Hans Nichols, Michael McDonald and Michelle Jamrisko in Newtown, William Selway, Phil Mattingly, Roger Runningen and Kathleen Hunter in Washington, Michael C. Bender in Tallahassee, Elise Young in Trenton, John Dillon in Stamford and Chris Dolmetsch in New York.

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