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Connecticut gunman enrolled in college at 16, was a B student

December 16, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Kim Murphy
  • Adam Lanza as a middle-school student in Newtown, Conn.
Adam Lanza as a middle-school student in Newtown, Conn. (Hartford Courant )

NEWTOWN, Conn. — By the time he was 16, Adam Lanza enrolled in courses at Western Connecticut State University and managed to earn a B average over the next year while studying philosophy, macroeconomics and history.

Lanza, who shot himself this week after killing 26 students and staff at a Connecticut elementary school, did not appear to show up for his senior year at Newtown High School with the rest of the 2010 graduating class, but enrolled in a pair of college computer classes in summer 2008, university officials confirmed Sunday.

He went on that fall to study data modeling — a class from which he withdrew — and introduction to ethical theory, earning a C in that class.

PHOTOS: Connecticut school shooting

In spring 2009, he earned an A- in American history but dropped out of a German class he was on the verge of failing, according to university officials and a professor.

He got a B in macroeconomics in summer 2009, ending his stint at the university with a cumulative GPA of 3.26.

Paul Steinmetz, interim associate vice president for institutional advancement at the Danbury, Conn.-based university, said having a student enroll in college so young was “rare, but not unique.”

“Usually students in this situation are concurrently enrolled in high school or home-schooled,” he said.

A family member said that Lanza’s mother, who was shot to death by her son before the attack at the school, had had conflicts with administrators at Newtown High School and had pulled him out of class for home-schooling.

Neighbors and others familiar with the family said Lanza rode the bus with other neighborhood children for at least his first year of elementary school at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shootings occurred.

Authorities still have not revealed what clues, if any, might suggest a motivation for the attacks.

At Newtown High School, students have said Lanza cut a quiet profile, making few friends because of his extreme shyness. Family members told others that Lanza, who was 20 when he died, may have suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism characterized by strong cognitive abilities but social awkwardness.

Olivia DeVivo, who attended Newtown High with Lanza, said he was “very fidgety and quiet” and had “a nervous disposition.”

“He didn’t participate in class, but I don’t think it was because he was unintelligent — I think he felt very uncomfortable talking in public,” she said. “When he was called on, he would get really nervous to speak. His face would get bright red.”

Kateleen Foy, who was in Lanza’s seventh-grade class at St. Rose of Lima School in Newtown, said he joined the class after the school year began and left before it ended.

“He was just really shy, really shy,” she said. I know I said hi to him once or twice, [but] he was really … hard to talk to.”

At the university, not far from his home, Lanza appeared to cut a low profile. It was hard finding anyone who remembered him.

WHO THEY WERE: Shooting victims

His German professor, Renate Ludanyi, said she barely remembered him, though her records showed she gave him a “repeat” at the end of his time there — just short of failing. “I must have had some hope that he was smart and could do it again, instead of really flunking him,” she said.

She said Lanza took one test, in which he was “not outstanding,” and then failed to take the final.

“Probably he didn’t come to class very often,” she said. “He must have been a quiet kid, coming in, going out,” she said. “You get so many students, they come and go. Some speak with you, some are outstanding, some you remember for a long time. Some you barely remember when the semester’s over.”

Lanza fit into that last category, she said.

“He never talked to me. He came in, sat down and left," she said. "He was just there.”

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

kim.murphy@latimes.com

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