Novia said Lanza had extreme difficulties relating to fellow students and teachers, as well as a strange bodily condition: "If that boy would've burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically."
Lanza would also go through crises that would require his mother to come to school to deal with. Such episodes might involve "total withdrawal from whatever he was supposed to be doing, be it a class, be it sitting and read a book," Novia said.
When people approached Lanza in the hallways, he would press himself against the wall or walk in a different direction, clutching his black case "like an 8-year-old who refuses to give up his teddy bear," said Novia, who now lives in Tennessee.
Even so, Novia said his main concern about Lanza was that he might become a target for teasing or abuse by other students, not that he might become a threat.
"Somewhere along in the last four years there were significant changes that led to what has happened Friday morning," Novia said. "I could never have foreseen him doing that."
Sandy Hook Elementary will be closed next week -- some parents can't even conceive of sending their children back, Board of Education chairwoman Debbie Leidlein said - and officials are deciding what to do about the town's other schools.
"Next week is going to be horrible," said the town's legislative council chairman, Jeff Capeci, thinking about the string of funerals the town will face. "Horrible, and the week leading into Christmas."
Asked whether the town would recover, Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library who took cover in a storage room with 18 fourth-graders during the shooting rampage, said: "We have to. We have a lot of children left."
--- Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald, Bridget Murphy, Pat Eaton-Robb and Michael Melia in Newtown; Adam Geller in Southbury, Conn.; and Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn.