First Funerals for Shooting Victims - KLFY News 10

First Funerals for Shooting Victims

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NEWTOWN, Conn. A grief-stricken Newtown began laying to rest the littlest victims of the school massacre, starting with two 6-year-old boys — one of them a big football fan, the other described as a whip-smart youngster whose twin sister survived the rampage.

Family, friends and townspeople streamed to two funeral homes to say goodbye to Jack Pinto, who loved the New York Giants and idolized their star wide receiver Victor Cruz, and Noah Pozner, who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.

A rabbi presided at Noah's service, which was attended by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket adorned with a Star of David. Outside the funeral home, well-wishers placed two teddy bears, a bouquet of white flowers and a red rose at the base of an old maple tree.

"If Noah had not been taken from us, he would have become a great man. He would been a wonderful husband and a loving father," Noah's uncle Alexis Haller told mourners, according to remarks he provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.

Haller described a smart, funny and mischievous child who loved animals and Mario Brothers video games, and liked to tease his sisters by telling them he worked in a taco factory.

"It is unspeakably tragic that none of us can bring Noah back," Haller said. "We would go to the ends of the earth to do so, but none of us can. What we can do is carry Noah within us, always. We can remember the joy he brought to us. We can hold his memory close to our hearts. We can treasure him forever."

Noah's twin sister, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza that left 20 children and six adults dead last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in an attack so horrifying that authorities could not say whether the school would ever reopen.

At Jack's service, which Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman attended, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home. A mourner, Gwendolyn Glover, said that Jack was in an open casket and that the service was a message of comfort and protection, particularly for other children.

"The message was: You're secure now. The worst is over," she said.

The funeral program bore a quotation from the Book of Revelation: "God shall wipe away all tears. There shall be no more death. Neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."

Jack was described in the program as "an incredibly loving and vivacious young boy, appreciated by all who knew him for his lively and giving spirit and steely determination" who enjoyed baseball, skiing and wrestling in addition to the Giants.

A fir tree opposite the funeral home was strung with paper angels carrying the names of everyone who died, including the teachers.

Malloy called on Monday for a moment of silence and for churches to ring bells Friday, exactly one week after the shooting. Speaking to reporters in Hartford, Malloy asked churches ring their bells 26 times to honor the victims.

At both funeral homes, people wrestled with the same questions as the rest of the country — what steps could and should be taken to prevent anything like the massacre from happening again.

"If people want to go hunting, a single-shot rifle does the job, and that does the job to protect your home, too. If you need more than that, I don't know what to say," Ray DiStephan said outside Noah's funeral.

He added: "I don't want to see my kids go to schools that become maximum-security fortresses. That's not the world I want to live in, and that's not the world I want to raise them in."

With more funerals planned this week, the road ahead for Newtown, which had already started purging itself of Christmas decorations in a joyful season turned mournful, was clouded.

"I feel like we have to get back to normal, but I don't know if there is normal anymore," said Kim Camputo, mother of two children, 5 and 10, who attend a different school. "I'll definitely be dropping them off and picking them up myself for a while."

With Sandy Hook Elementary still designated a crime scene, State police Lt. Paul Vance said that it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district. The people of Newtown, consumed by loss, were not ready to address its future.

"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. "He's not even there yet."

Portraits of the victims became clearer during the weekend as families began coping with the tragic losses.

Robbie Parker, the father of 6-year-old Emilie, honored his oldest daughter in a moving tribute Saturday, tearfully describing her as the "type of person that could light up a room ... she always had something kind to say about anybody and her love and the strength that she gave us and the example that she showed us is remarkable.

Six-year-old Jessica Rekos was remembered as a horse lover who had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. In a statement, her family wrote about their "rock."

"We called her our little CEO for the way she carefully thought and planned everything. We cannot imagine our life without her."

Ana Marquez-Greene, who even at the age of 6 displayed an angelic singing voice in home movies released by her family, was mourned by her father, jazz musician Jimmy Greene, in a statement that read "As much as she's needed her and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you, sweetie girl."

There were also the women whose passion for their jobs cost them their lives.

Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just last week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.

She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, the 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.

Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

"She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."

Twenty-nine-year-old Rachel D'Avino was due to be engaged on Christmas Eve. D'Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school where she was killed, according to friend Lissa Lovetere Stone.

Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.

Thirty-year-old Lauren Rousseau's family said in a statement: "Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten. We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."

The family of Vicki Soto, 27, also takes some comfort in knowing that her last act was for the children she loved, shielding them with her body.

"Whatever details transpired in that classroom, we know in our hearts that she was protecting those kids from that shooter," cousin Jim Wiltsie said.

Those are just some of the personal stories that emerged as Newtown and the nation as a whole came to grips with Friday's attack.

Classes were canceled Monday, and Newtown's other schools were to reopen Tuesday. The district made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe.

Sandy Hook desks are being taken to the Chalk Hill school in Monroe, empty since town schools consolidated last year, and tradesmen are donating their services to get the school ready within a matter of days.

"These are innocent children that need to be put on the right path again," Monroe police Lt. Brian McCauley said.

On Sunday, President Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the victims at an interfaith prayer service. The president slowly recited the first names of the children.

"What choice do we have?" he said. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?"

The president first met privately with families of the victims and with the emergency personnel who responded to the shooting. He signed a picture of Soto for her family and credited her and her fellow faculty members killed in the attack in his speech as responding "as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances."

Authorities said Sunday that Lanza was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition, enough to kill just about every student in the school if given enough time. Lanza decided to kill himself when he heard police closing in about 10 minutes into the attack, Malloy said Sunday on ABC.

Across the country Monday morning, vigilance was high. In an effort to ensure student safety and calm parents' nerves, school systems asked police departments to increase patrols and sent messages to parents outlining safety plans they said are regularly reviewed and rehearsed.

Teachers girded themselves to be strong for their students and for questions and fears they would face in the classroom.

"It's going to be a tough day," said Richard Cantlupe, an American history teacher at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, Fla. "This was like our 9/11 for schoolteachers."

Communities were on edge. In nearby Ridgefield, Conn., schools were locked down after a suspicious person was seen near a train station, only to be given the all-clear after authorities determined that what made the person suspicious was an umbrella.

Authorities say the Newtown gunman shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home and then took her car and several of her guns to the school, where he broke in and shot his victims to death, then himself. A Connecticut official said the mother — a gun enthusiast who practiced at shooting ranges — was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Lanza was wearing all black, with an olive utility vest, during the attack.

Investigators have offered no motive, and police have found no letters or diaries that could shed light on it. A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators were reviewing the contents of Lanza's computer, as well as phone and credit card records. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the case.

Divorce paperwork released Monday showed that Nancy Lanza had the authority to make all decisions regarding Adam's upbringing. The divorce was finalized in September 2009, when Adam Lanza was 17.

A law enforcement source said that investigators have determined that Adam Lanza had visited multiple shooting ranges and engaged in shooting activities over the last several years, CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton reports.

Investigators have so far established that the most recent time Lanza visited a range was six months ago, but they are still investigating whether there were more recent visits, Milton reports.

The source said that Nancy Lanza also visited multiple ranges and engaged in shooting and that she and her son had visited the ranges together, Milton reports. It is unclear if Adam Lanza visited any of the ranges without his mother with him.

Adam Lanza took classes at Western Connecticut State University when he was 16, and earned a B average, said Paul Steinmetz, spokesman for the school in Danbury. He said Monday that Lanza took his last class in the summer of 2009.

Lanza is believed to have used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle in the school attack, a civilian version of the military's M-16 and a model commonly seen at marksmanship competitions. It's similar to the weapon used in a recent shopping mall shooting in Oregon.

Versions of the AR-15 were outlawed in the U.S. under the 1994 assault weapons ban. That law expired in 2004, and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of the gun-rights lobby, did not renew it.

In some of the first regulatory proposals to rise out of the Newtown shooting, Democratic lawmakers and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday that military-style assault weapons should be banned and that a national commission should be established to examine mass shootings.

"Assault weapons were developed for the U.S. military, not commercial gun manufacturers," said Lieberman, of Connecticut, who is retiring next month. "This is a moment to start a very serious national conversation about violence in our society, particularly about these acts of mass violence."

Gun rights activists remained largely quiet, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows. In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook, who authorities say died trying to overpower the shooter, should herself have been armed.

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