Nancy Jean Champion was born in Salem, Mass., on Sept. 6, 1960. She was the daughter of Donald Champion, an airline pilot and his wife, Dorothy, who worked many years as a nurse at a local elementary school. Together with her sister and two brothers, she grew up on the family's farm in Kingston, N.H. - a homestead that dates to the 1700s - tending animals and working the soil.
"She told me that as a farm girl, she learned how to butcher animals," said Marvin LaFontaine, a Kingston resident who met Nancy Lanza when their sons were in the Cub Scouts. "She was comfortable with raising livestock and then butchering them. Not that it was fun, but that's what they ate. It wasn't for sport, it wasn't fun; it was their food."
She would later meet Peter Lanza; the two married on June, 6, 1981.
The newlyweds built their own home on the family's Kingston farmland. While Peter went to college to become an accountant, Nancy was the breadwinner, working in the new accounts division of John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Boston's financial district, an hour's drive away.
Nancy Lanza would later tell a New Hampshire law enforcement official, who spoke to The Courant on the condition of anonymity, that in the early 1980s she had been assaulted on the Boston Common, a daytime attack in front of onlookers.
The official said that some time later, Nancy went to the Kingston Police Department to notify them that she was afraid her attacker would victimize her at her home. The law enforcement official could not recall the name of the assailant and The Courant and "Frontline" were not able to locate court records related to the case.
Nancy and Peter's first son, Ryan John Lanza, was born on April 10, 1988. The new mom continued to work, dropping off her son at day care before taking the ride to Boston each day.
But the balancing act grew tough through the summer of 1991, when Nancy became pregnant again, this time with Adam. She suffered severe morning sickness, and by November 1991, she had taken a medical leave of absence after developing hypoglycemia, a blood sugar disorder.
On April 22, 1992, after a cesarean section at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, Adam Peter Lanza was born.
She sued John Hancock, alleging that the company discriminated against her after she became pregnant with Adam.
For eight years, Lanza said, she had consistently won high marks from her bosses on job evaluations. But after she became pregnant with Adam, Lanza said, her work was more harshly criticized. Before she took her leave, the company told Lanza there would be restructuring in her department and that although her position might be eliminated, she would still have a job.
But as she was about to return from maternity leave, Lanza received a letter from John Hancock informing her she would be laid off, court documents show.
She blamed the firing on her pregnancy, charging in the lawsuit that she began to experience "episodes of physical pain, distress, headaches, insomnia, crying spells, nausea and increased nervousness." The case eventually was settled.
She confided in LaFontaine that she was suffering from a potentially fatal autoimmune deficiency, an unspecified disease that seemed to come and go. She told LaFontaine that she hadn't even revealed her illness to family members
When her husband landed a job with General Electric in Connecticut in 1998, Lanza agreed to the move because she believed it would be good for the boys.
"I was shocked when they were going to Connecticut," LaFontaine said. "It was her husband's idea and she didn't want to go at first. ... She didn't want to leave because her baby brother lived right next to her in town here and she was close to him."
In the end, she made the move because of the educational opportunity it afforded the boys, LaFontaine said. "She thought the schools in Connecticut were better, and I'm sure I'm going to have to agree with that."