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Evidence hints at deadlier plan in Conn. massacre

By Matt Apuzzo

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The tragedy has plunged Newtown into mourning and added the picturesque New England community of 27,000 people to the grim map of towns where mass shootings in recent years have periodically reignited the national debate over gun control but led to little change.

School officials were trying to determine what to do about sending the survivors back to class, Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said at a news conference Sunday.

Sinko said he "would find it very difficult" for students to return to the school. But, he added, "we want to keep these kids together. They need to support each other," he said.

Plans were being made for some students to attend classes in nearby Monroe, said Jim Agostine, superintendent of schools there.

Residents and faith leaders reflected Sunday on the mass shooting and what meaning, if any, to find in it. Obama planned to attend an interfaith vigil — the fourth time he will have traveled to a city after a mass shooting.

At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic church, Jennifer Waters, who at 6 is the same age as many of the victims and attends a different school, came to Mass on Sunday in Newtown with a lot of questions.

"The little children — are they with the angels?" she asked her mother while fiddling with a small plastic figurine on a pew near the back of the church. "Are they going to live with the angels?"

Her mother, Joan, 45, assured her they were, then put a finger to her daughter's lips, urging her to be quiet.

An overflow crowd of more than 800 people attended the 9 a.m. service at the church, where eight children will be buried later this week. The gunman, Adam Lanza, and his mother also attended church here. Spokesman Brian Wallace said the diocese has yet to be asked to provide funerals for either.

Boxes of tissues were placed strategically in each pew and on each window sill. The altar was adorned with bouquets, one shaped as a broken heart, with a zigzag of red carnations cutting through the white ones.

In his homily, the Rev. Jerald Doyle, the diocesan administrator, tried to answer the question of how parishioners could find joy in the holiday season with so much sorrow surrounding them.

"You won't remember what I say, and it will become unimportant," he said. "But you will really hear deep down that word that will finally and ultimately bring peace and joy. That is the word by which we live. That is the word by which we hope. That is the word by which we love."

After the Mass, Joan and Jennifer stopped by a memorial outside the church filled with votive candles and a pile of bouquets and stuffed animals underneath, to pray the Lord's Prayer.

Jennifer asked whether she could take one.

"No, those are for the little children," her mother replied.

"Who died?" her daughter asked.

"Yes," said her mother, wiping away a tear.

At a later Mass at St. Rose of Lima, the priest stopped midway through the service and told worshippers to leave, because someone had phoned in a threat. Police searched the church and the rectory but found nothing dangerous.

Amid the confusion and sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of Hochsprung, 47, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, rushing toward Lanza in an attempt to stop him. Both died.

There was also 27-year-old teacher Victoria Soto, whose name has been invoked as a portrait of selflessness. Investigators told relatives she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.

"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about," a friend, Andrea Crowell, told The Associated Press. "She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day."

The gunman's father, Peter Lanza, issued a statement relating his own family's anguish in the aftermath.

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