Documents Show Sandy Hook Shooter's ‘Isolated' Childhood Years

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire, killing 20 first-graders and six adult staff members

It took years, but last month Connecticut State Police released more than a thousand pages of documents looking into the childhood years of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza.

There are drawings, writings, and report cards from Lanza's youth, from before he killed 20 children, six educators, his mother and then himself in Newtown in 2012. NBC Connecticut was able to obtain the records only after the Hartford Courant sued for the release.

Experts in child development and mental health are now weighing in about what they see in the documents. To be clear, neither of the doctors quoted in this story saw Adam Lanza as a patient.

"A very complex neuro-psychiatric profile," said Frank Bartolomeo, a family psychotherapist who is based in Wilton, works with families of developmentally-challenged children.

Lanza had substantial language delays yet he still earned good grades, and Bartolomeo says something changed as Lanza grew older, pointing to Lanza's writings and drawings that appear to get darker.

"Then something begins to shift," said Bartolomeo. "I think what you see with Adam Lanza is the intensity of those kinds of drawings and thoughts," he said. "It's almost complete with stories of aggression, of people being hurt by adults, of children hurting adults."

"The big things you can point to are isolation and distortion," said Dr. Jeremy Veenstra-Vanderweele, who is the director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University. Lanza's self-isolation and his access to guns were the biggest risk factors for his violence, Veenstra-VanderWeele said. He said there is s a lesson here for all parents: do not allow your children to isolate themselves.

"You want your child's life to include as many people as possible and you want their world to grow instead of shrink," said Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele.

Documents also show it was in this dark space that Lanza began to author many of the writings that have recently been released, including a spreadsheet listing a history of mass murderers.

"At a certain point, it feels like something opened a door and evil walked in. These are evil acts. They're not things we can understand from the perspective of mental illness," said Veenstra-VanderWeele.

NBC Connecticut Investigates reached out to parents of children who were killed in the Newtown shooting, as well to Sandy Hook Promise, the organization formed in the years after the tragedy to train students and adults to know the signs that could lead to gun violence. None wished to comment. 

NBC New York also made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Lanza's father. To see more of the documents and to see the I-Team's in-depth report, click here. 

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