“He was a little boy in my class in second grade” at Sandy Hook Elementary, said MacInnes, who taught in Newtown for 22 years before retiring three years ago. “A thin little fellow. He was very quiet. There was a quiet depth to him that I couldn’t penetrate.”
The distance was unusual for a second-grader, but Adam was not yet debilitated by his withdrawal. “He didn’t need that much from me,” MacInnes said. “Some kids coming in from first grade need more attention, but academically he was fine. Socially, he got along with the others. I don’t remember him as hostile.”
Nancy Lanza visited MacInnes at parent-teacher conferences, and the sessions were unremarkable; the mother had no special concerns.
But Lanza’s worry about her son was already evident, said Wendy Wipprecht, whose son, Miles Aldrich, was invited, along with the rest of their first-grade class, to Adam’s birthday party — duckpin bowling at Danbury Duckpin Lanes. Miles and his mother were happy to be invited, in part because Miles, who had autism and a teaching aide devoted to him, was not always included in class social events.
At the party, Nancy Lanza approached Wipprecht, evidently worried about her own son.
“I got into a long talk with his mother,” Wipprecht said. “She was concerned about Adam. He was obviously very bright and very shy. She was worried he wasn’t doing as well as he should be.”
Wipprecht was surprised by the level of Nancy’s concern. “I didn’t see autism there,” she said.
Several years later, when the boys entered middle school, Lanza took her son out of the public system and put him into St. Rose of Lima, a Catholic school, because “she thought he would do better in smaller classes,” Wipprecht said.
The two women did not stay in touch after the boys finished elementary school. Their boys did not see each other again until 10th grade at Newtown High School, where Miles remembers Adam being “very, very quiet,” Wipprecht said.
Somewhere along the way, Adam was given a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder related to autism that usually involves impaired social skills, difficulty communicating, and repetitive and fixated behavior. H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner, said his office is consulting with geneticists in a search for “any identifiable disease associated with” Adam, noting that “Asperger’s is not associated with behavior patterns that are violent.”
At St. Rose — although the Lanzas were Catholic, they were not religious and did not belong to the church, friends and relatives said — Adam “wasn’t interested in what normal, average 13-year-olds were interested in,” said Nicholas Martinez, a classmate who is now a student at Seattle University. “He didn’t like contemporary music” but listened to classic rock from the 1950s.