Published December 19, 2012
Connecticut's chief medical examiner will seek genetic clues in hopes of explaining why a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in a Newtown elementary school as funerals and memorial services for the victims continue throughout the state on Wednesday.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver told The Hartford Courant that he wants to know if there is any identifiable disease associated with the behavior of the 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza. Carver is working with the University of Connecticut department of genetics.
"I'm exploring with the department of genetics what might be possible, if anything is possible," Carver said Tuesday. "Is there any identifiable disease associated with this behavior?"
Paula Levy, a mediator who worked with the family, says Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autism-like disorder.
Carver, who said Asperger's is not associated with violent behavior, is not considering it as a reason for Lanza's rampage on Friday. Carver is awaiting toxicology testing results for Lanza and other information.
Lanza fatally shot himself as first responders approached the school Friday morning.
Mary Ellen O'Toole, a retired FBI profiler and behavioral scientist, told the newspaper that seeking an answer in Lanza's biology is worthwhile.
"I think it's great to consider if there's something here that would help people understand this behavior," said O'Toole, adding that other important clues will be contained in the reports that detectives prepare about the crime scene and their interviews with witnesses
One thing is apparent from the evidence made public so far, she said. The assault on Sandy Hook Elementary "was not an impulsive act," she said. "This was well thought out."
Meanwhile, memorial services for victims of the second-worst U.S. mass shooting continued Wednesday, including for students Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski and Benjamin Wheeler. Services or viewings will also be held for teachers Anne Marie Murphy and Victoria Soto, and principal Dawn Hochsprung, CTNow.com reports.
Candlelight vigils will also be held throughout the state on Wednesday, including a 6 p.m. event at Center Memorial Park in Manchester and another at 7 p.m. at the Newington High School in Newington. Plainville Fire Department officials will hold a memorial service at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Joseph Young, an optometrist, said he has already been to one funeral and plans to attend two or three more.
"The first few days, all you heard was helicopters and now at my office all I hear is the rumble of motorcycle escorts and funeral processions going back and forth throughout the day," he told The Associated Press. "It's difficult. It's just a constant reminder."
The first of Wednesday's funerals in Newtown was for Barden, a gap-toothed 7-year-old and the youngest of three children whose family described him as "always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy."
At the same time, in the town of Stratford, mourners gathered to say goodbye to Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who has been hailed as a hero for dying while trying to shield her students, some of whom managed to escape.
Funerals began in earnest in the Connecticut town on Tuesday, when hundreds of mourners attended a wake in nearby Stratford for Soto, a 27-year-old first-grade teacher who has been hailed as a hero for dying while attempting to shield her students from Lanza.
"Big smile, great eyes, just a wonderful person," Lauren Ostrofsky said. "If anyone could be an example of what a person should be today, it's her."
Student Caroline Previdi and Bacon were to be laid to rest later Wednesday, and calling hours were being held for the school's popular 47-year-old principal. Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach rushed toward Lanza in an attempt to stop him and paid with their lives.
Earlier, on Tuesday, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic in Newtown, a motorcade led by police motorcycles arrived for the funeral of first-grader James Mattioli, who was described by his family as a "numbers guy" who couldn't wait until he was old enough to order a foot-long Subway sandwich.
Traffic in front of the church slowed to a crawl as police directed vehicles into the parking lot. A school bus carrying elementary students got stuck in traffic, and the children, pressing their faces into the windows, sadly watched as the mourners assembled.
Immediately following was the funeral for 6-year-old Jessica Rekos, who loved horses and was counting the years until she turned 10, when her family had promised her a horse of her own. For Christmas, she had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
At a Southern Connecticut State University memorial service on Tuesday, professors and students remembered four of their own who died in the massacre.
Hochsprung, counselor Mary Sherlach and teacher's aide Anne Marie Murphy earned master's degrees at SCSU. Soto, the first-grade teacher, was working on a master's and was remembered for lighting up when she talked about her students.
Louise Spear-Swerling, Soto's adviser, recalled how Soto had accidentally missed a recent appointment because of car problems. But Soto, she recalled, won her over with profuse apologies. She says Soto was sweet and genuine, with a "very winsome, megawatt smile."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.