OTR Interviews

Newtown shooter's mother struggled to understand her son before deadly tragedy

Friend details the difficulty Nancy Lanza had connecting with her son Adam before the deadly shooting at Sandy Elementary school


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now, the gunman's own family is speaking tonight, Adam Lanza's aunt insisting Adam was, quote, "a good kid."


MARSHA LANZA, ADAM LANZA'S AUNT: He was different. He was quiet. Nice kid. Good kid. I mean, he was a definitely a challenge to the family in that house. Every family has one. I have one. They have one. But never in trouble with the law, never in trouble with anything.


VAN SUSTEREN: Rich Collins was a friend of Adam's mother, Nancy. He is also the parent of a child with autism, and the two often discussed raising their children.

Rich, thank you for joining us.


VAN SUSTEREN: Rich, I'm curious. When did you first meet Adam's mother?

COLLINS: In -- down in the center of Newtown, there's a restaurant bar that's owned by a family called My Place, and it's kind of the local gathering place. So on Sunday nights, they do an open mic and people play music. I play guitar. And that's -- that's where -- Nancy would always come to that. And she would come on other occasions. She was very well liked down at that restaurant.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did she ever sort of open up to you about any particular problems or troubles she was having?

COLLINS: Well, I think -- my connection with Nancy had to deal with - - you know, because I have a son with autism and she had a son with an intellectual disability and it sounded like to me that he was somewhere on the autism spectrum, but very high-functioning. You know, we would talk about it and commiserate about, you know, both of our sons. She was very proud of both of her sons and...

VAN SUSTEREN: Did she ever...

COLLINS: Go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did she ever hint or say that she was afraid of him or that he was violent or there was anything peculiar in that area?

COLLINS: No, I never heard that. She was proud of her son. He had just learned how to drive this summer. And considering that, you know, he -- for somebody who was on the autism spectrum, you know, I thought that was a big accomplishment.

My son is on much lower on the autism spectrum, and he'll never drive a car.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was your thought when you heard that he had killed his mother and that he had gone to the school -- I mean, you know, what was your thought, listening to that?

COLLINS: I was in shock. Nancy was a friend of mine. I never met Adam. And then -- and then, you know, the big question, why would he go to an elementary school and do this? You know, why would he -- why would he target little children?

VAN SUSTEREN: I read someplace that you said that she had a hard time because he wouldn't let her hug him or touch him or something?

COLLINS: Yes, he was sensitive to touch. You know, my son suffers from sensory deprivation, but he goes the other way. He likes deep-pressure back rubs and he likes to be hugged. And Nancy's son didn't want to be touched, and it upset Nancy because she couldn't hug her son.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, was she able to communicate with him? I mean, was he responsive to her?

COLLINS: You know, I -- you know, I know, you know, with the -- you know, with the guns, she was -- she was taking him to the gun range, you know, as a that way a single mom could try to bond with her son. That's why she -- he enjoyed it, and that's why she did it. She told me around -- that for Thanksgiving, they went down to Washington, D.C. So I assume, you know, they had some level of communication.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, the -- I mean, it's such a broad spectrum with autism and Asperger's, and I'm curious (INAUDIBLE) think he might have. Did he -- was he the kind of child -- was he functioning enough where he'd say, Hey, you know, Mom, I'm going to the store, or, Mother, I love you, or anything like that, or was he sort of cold and detached and distant from her and unable to communicate much?

COLLINS: You know, from my conversations with Nancy, I love you, that type of expression of emotions wasn't part of what he would do. He was -- you know, like you said, he was more detached.

VAN SUSTEREN: It certainly is tragic, what happened...

COLLINS: And that used to bother Nancy.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm sorry. What did you say, sir?

COLLINS: And that used to -- that used to bother Nancy. Nancy was -- tried to be a really good mom to both her boys.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rich, thank you.

COLLINS: You're welcome.