WORTH REPEATING: American Psycho

Artwork by CHUNKY BEEF

NEW YORKER: As [Sandy Hook mass murderer] Adam [Lanza]’s isolation deepened, Nancy’s naïveté began to blur into denial. She started making plans to move with Adam, possibly to Seattle, although she didn’t mention those plans to [his father] Peter. She had also suggested to a friend that she’d be living with Adam for a “very long time,” a situation that could have been upsetting for a young man too set on independence to let his father help him with his coursework. Nancy’s mixture of hovering appeasement and disregard for professional help now seems bewildering. Yet similar choices have worked well for others: some people with autism respond best to a mixture of laissez-faire and active indulgence.

Peter’s final communication from Nancy, the month before the shootings, was about buying Adam a new computer. Peter wanted to give it to Adam personally. Nancy said she’d discuss it with Adam after Thanksgiving. “I was doing everything I could,” Peter said. “She was doing way more. I just feel sad for her.” Peter is convinced that Nancy had no idea how dangerous their son had become. “She never confided to her sister or best friend about being afraid of him. She slept with her bedroom door unlocked, and she kept guns in the house, which she would not have done if she were frightened.” About a week before the shootings, Nancy reportedly told an acquaintance, “I’m worried I’m losing him.” But losing him seemed to be a matter of his withdrawal, not of violence. The cautiousness with which Nancy responded to her son’s demands indicates anxiety rather than fear, and it must have made her as lonely as it did him.

Matricide is usually committed by overprotected boys—by a son who wishes, as one study puts it, “with his desperate act, to free himself from his state of dependency on her, a dependency that he believes has not allowed him to grow up.” Another study proposes that, in each case examined, “the mother-child relationship became unusually intense and conflict-laden,” while the fathers “were uniformly passive and remained relatively uninvolved.” The state’s attorney’s report says that when Nancy asked Adam whether he would feel sad if anything happened to her, he replied, “No.” A Word document called “Selfish,” which was found on Adam’s computer, gives an explanation of why females are inherently selfish, written while one of them was accommodating him in every possible way.

Peter does not think that Adam had any affection for him, either, by that point. He said, “With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he’d had the chance. I don’t question that for a minute. The reason he shot Nancy four times was one for each of us: one for Nancy; one for him; one for Ryan; one for me.” MORE