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Reporter broke news to father of suspect

Updated 9:56 pm, Friday, December 14, 2012

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  • LinkedIn profile photo of Peter Lanza, father of  Sandy Hook School gunman Adam Lanza. Photo: Contributed Photo

    LinkedIn profile photo of Peter Lanza, father of Sandy Hook School gunman Adam Lanza.

    Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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STAMFORD -- Peter Lanza drove up to his home, a brick ranch on a quiet street, a few hours after his son allegedly killed 26 people and himself at a Newtown elementary school and moments after police left his property.

"Is there something I can do for you?" he asked me, after stopping his blue Mini Cooper in his driveway and rolling down the window. He wore a blue-and-white striped button-down shirt, his hair neatly parted to side.

I told him I was a reporter for the Stamford Advocate, and I was surprised that no click of recognition flash across his face. So I continued, explaining that I'd been told someone at his address had been linked to the shootings in Newtown.

His expression twisted from patient, to surprise to horror; it was obvious that this moment, shortly after 1:30 p.m. Friday, was the first time he had considered his family could have been involved. He quickly declined to comment, rolled up the window, parked in the right side of the two-car garage and closed the door.

Moments later he sat at a table in the front of his three-bedroom house, a phone to his left ear and a palm to his right cheek.

Lanza, a vice president of taxes for GE Energy Financial Services, is the father of the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza, 20, who is also suspected of killing his mother, Nancy.

Peter and Nancy Lanza divorced in 2009 due to "irreconcilable differences," according to court records in Stamford. The couple had been married for 28 years. About nine months after Nancy filed for the divorce, the two worked out an in agreement that included joint custody of their son Adam, who was 17 at the time. As part of their parental agreement, Adam was to live primarily with his mother, with Peter permitted "liberal visitation and vacations."

Peter Lanza now lives on Bartina Lane in the Westover section of Stamford. Lanza has worked as a tax specialist in the financial industry and served as an adjunct professor at Northeastern University in Boston since 1995 and has taught classes on tax partnerships at Fairfield University.

Bartina Lane is a small street, connecting West Hill and Westover Roads in one of Stamford's more well-to-do corners. Most days, the traffic is few and far between, and in the summer some of the elementary-school aged children set up a lemonade stand for their neighbors. It's the kind of place where the neighbors know each other, and everyone keeps their light on.

According to a neighbor, Lanza and his wife were married fairly recently. While his wife has lived in the neighborhood for at least a decade, Lanza only moved in a few years ago, at about the time they got married.

"I literally know nothing about them. We've been here 10 years, and they've been here longer than that; they're just not very friendly," said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified.

The woman was shocked -- to the point of tears -- to hear that her neighbor across the street had a connection to the tragedy she was watching unfold on TV.

"I wouldn't have thought the police would be here for that house. Not that house," she said.

Police, who said they were at the home to conduct a "welfare check" hours after the shootings, returned to the scene with the FBI and State Police Friday evening. As darkness fell, flashes of blue and red lit up the block, and news vans peppered the curb along the once-quiet street.

While the road was taped off during the investigation Friday night, Geralyn Petrafesa, who has lived on the street for 14 years, said the lights were never on in the Lanza home, which was one of the few on the block not decorated for Christmas.

"It's like 9/11 all over again," Petrafesa said of the shootings and the connection to her neighborhood. "You panic. You just want to grab your kids."

And like 9/11, Petrafesa said her life would once again never be the same.

Maggie.gordon@scni.com; 203-964-2229; http://twitter.com/MagEGordon. Staff writer Elizabeth Kim contributed to this story.