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Hairstylist remembers Adam Lanza: 'I thought he couldn't speak'

December 20, 2012|By Kim Murphy
  • A child lines up with firefighters outside the funeral for Newtown, Conn., school shooting victim Daniel Gerard Barden, who wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up.
A child lines up with firefighters outside the funeral for Newtown, Conn.,… (Charles Krupa )

Nancy Lanza's influence on her son was apparent even to the stylists who cut his hair. They said Adam never said a word when his mother brought him in for haircuts every few weeks.

Adam Lanza would sit wordlessly in the chair and stare at the floor as his mother gave instructions.

“He would just sit there and not speak. And I’ll tell you the honest truth, as a mother, I just thought the child couldn’t speak. I never gave it a second thought. I thought he couldn’t speak,” said Diane Skuba, who owns the salon in Newtown, Conn., where the Lanzas went for years.

PHOTOS: Mourning after the massacre

Lanza, 20, killed his mother last Friday, shooting her four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 students and six adults with an assault rifle before shooting himself in the head with a handgun. No one has been able to explain why, and those who knew the pair could only outline a close relationship between a caring mother and an emotionally reclusive son.

The Lanzas came into the salon every few weeks for more than five years, Skuba said. But it had been “a good three years” since their last visit.

When Adam came in to get haircuts, she said, he never made a move except as directed by his mother.

“He only moved on her direction. Like when you say, ‘OK, you’re all set,’ and you expect them to get up? He didn’t go [based] on the person that was cutting the hair. He only went on his mother’s direction,” Skuba said.

“When you get a haircut, do you look to see what the heck you look like? He never looked. So we knew instantly, immediately, that there was some kind of a problem,” she said. “We have a few clients that their children suffer from being autistic, but he was just — I don’t even think withdrawn is the right word. Removed.”

As previously reported by The Times, friends of the family said he suffered from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. As early as age 10, Adam Lanza was taking medication, according to his former baby sitter, Ryan Kraft, now an aerospace engineer in Hermosa Beach.

There was no mention of Adam Lanza's emotional troubles or of any domestic strife in his parents' 2008 divorce papers, in which Nancy and Peter Lanza agreed on joint custody, though Adam remained with his mother.

A family acquaintance, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said the parents had separated in 2001, and the father saw his youngest son regularly until 2009. Then, the acquaintance said, Peter Lanza began seeing another woman, and Adam Lanza refused to see his father or his brother, Ryan.

Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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