NEWTOWN, Conn. - While church services here focused on honoring the victims, law enforcement officials on Sunday continued the difficult business of investigating details of Friday's senseless slaughter that left dead a deranged gunman and his 26 victims.
Federal agents were set to fan out across the state, visiting gun stores and shooting ranges in pursuit of leads they hoped would cast light on the life and motive of the shooter, Adam Lanza.
On Saturday, the horrifying details about the victims' last moments emerged as authorities released their names and ages - the youngest 6 and 7, the oldest 56.
Many of the elementary school victims shot multiple times at close range by an assault rifle, the state's chief medical examiner said.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut's long-time chief medical examiner, said most of the 20 children and six adults killed early Friday morning were first-graders.
Among seven he personally examined, all had three to 11 bullet wounds."All of the wounds I know of were caused by a rifle,'' he said. Twelve of the youngsters killed were girls, eight were boys. All six school officials, including Principal Dawn Hochsprung, were women. Sixteen of the kids were just six years old, the rest were seven.
"I've been at this for a third of a century,'' Carver said of the gruesome crime scene and young victims, who were massacred in one of the worst mass shooting sprees in U.S. history. "This is probably the worst I've seen or the worst any of my colleagues have seen. This was a very devastating set of injuries."
President Obama plans to travel to Newtown tonight to meet with victims' families and thank first-responders. He then will then speak at an interfaith vigil at Newtown High School.
The suspect, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, committed suicide following the shootings. Two semi-automatic handguns were found near his body. Authorities said they had found a .223-caliber assault rifle in a car, but had not previously disclosed a second rifle Carver said was used in the shootings. The medical examiner's office wrapped up its autopsies of the 26 killed at the school Saturday. It plans to examine Adam Lanza's body and that of his mother, Nancy, on Sunday. Nancy Lanza was found dead at her Newtown home on Friday. It's believed she was killed by Lanza before he used her car to drive to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he shot his way into the one-story building shortly after 9:30 a.m. and began his methodical killing spree.
Family members, friends and former classmates say Lanza was bright, extremely shy, socially awkward and may have suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism.
Lanza's family was struggling to make sense of what happened and "trying to find whatever answers we can," his father, Peter Lanza, said in a statement late Saturday that also expressed sympathy for the victims' families. Peter and Nancy Lanza were divorced.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY that more weapons were located at the Newtown home where Lanza's mother was found. State Police Lt. Paul Vance said authorities also have uncovered other evidence at the Sandy Hook school and the Lanza home. Vance would not say if investigators had found any notes or writings indicating Lanza's motive. "We're not going to name the evidence,'' he said. The investigation is likely to continue for several days.
"It's going to be a long, painstaking process," Vance said. "We're hopeful that it will paint a complete picture."
While NBC reported Saturday that Adam Lanza may have had a confrontation with someone at Sandy Hook Elementary days before the shooting, Vance said he had no information that any confrontation took place. As far as a motive for the slaying? "I don't have definitive information we're ready to publicize at this point,'' Vance said.
The official said investigators were visiting surrounding gun dealers to determine whether Lanza had sought to buy weapons in advance of the massacre. Federal agents were also checking with local gun ranges to see if he had been there recently.
Vance said family members have asked media to respect their privacy. "This is an extremely heartbreaking thing for them to endure," he said. State Troopers have been assigned to stand outside the homes of victims' families to protect their privacy, he said. A crisis intervention team from Yale University has been set up for people in town who may need to talk to someone, Vance said.
At church vigils and gatherings around Newtown, there was a collective cry of disbelief and grieving. Around town, flags flew at half staff. On Church Hill Road, which leads into Sandy Hook, a large sheet hung on the side of a bridge. The blue lettering read "We (heart) you Sandy Hook Elementary."
At the Honan Funeral Home, Newtown's only funeral home, victims' families were preparing burials.
"We are in the process of meeting with families," said funeral director Daniel Honan.
Separately, members of the Connecticut Funeral Director's Association were meeting to determine how they can help Honan and families of victims, said the association's spokeswoman Laura Soll.
Declan Procaccini was with his daughter at Sandy Hook Elementary in a reading class with other children and two teachers on Friday when the shooting started. He said they locked themselves in a bathroom until police banged on the door and led them through the school -- and the bloody scene -- to safety.
What happened on Friday "is lunacy," said local resident Shannon Doherty. "It's nuts it's totally nuts."
The town of 27,000 is so close that he is sure he's going to know the victims. "We're going to know these kids," he said.
He and his wife Tamara aren't sure what to say to their own kids, a 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. "What do you tell them?" he asked.
Laura and Nick Phelps have a 6-year-old boy who is a first-grader and a daughter in the third grade. Both got out safely. Laura Phelps told CNN her son "said he saw people on the floor, sleeping." They said their son doesn't seem to understand what happened, while their daughter is more upset.
"They all heard and saw things children shouldn't see," Laura Phelps said. "It's unspeakable. It's like reaching into your insides and pulling them out. ... It's something we'll get through, but I don't think it's something we'll ever get over."
After receiving word of the shooting, Tracy Hoekenga, said she was paralyzed with fear for her two boys, fourth-grader C.J. and second-grader Matthew. "I couldn't breathe. It's indescribable. For a half an hour, 45 minutes, I had no idea if my kids were OK," she said.
The nightmare on Friday began when Adam Lanza drove his mother's car through 300-year-old Newtown to Sandy Hook, where teacher Theodore Varga and other fourth-grade instructors were meeting; the glow remaining from a fourth-grade concert Thursday night.
"It was a lovely day," Varga said. "Everybody was joyful and cheerful. We were ending the week on a high note."
Then, gunshots rang out. "I can't even remember how many," Varga said.
The incident is the latest in a series of mass shootings in the U.S. this year, including Tuesday's assault by a lone gunman at a Portland, Ore., shopping mall that left two dead and one wounded.
Ryan Lanza, the suspect's 24-year-old brother, was questioned Friday by law enforcement in Hoboken, N.J. He told police that Adam was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and that he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.
Restaurant owner Mark Tambascio, a family friend, said Nancy Lanza told him recently that Adam had Asperger syndrome, that he was "getting out of control and that she might need special help for him."
Adam Lanza's aunt said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who would not have hesitated to seek mental help for him if he needed it, the Associated Press reported.
Marsha Lanza, of Crystal Lake, Ill., told the AP she was close with Nancy Lanza, and sent her a message on Facebook on Friday morning asking how she was doing. Nancy Lanza never responded.
Marsha Lanza described Nancy Lanza as a good mother and kind-hearted.
If her son had needed counseling, "Nancy wasn't one to deny reality," she said.
Witnesses told the AP that during the shooting, Lanza didn't utter a word.
Police said the shootings took place in two rooms in one section of the school building, including a kindergarten classroom.
Varga said that he was in a meeting with other teachers when he heard the gunfire but that there was no lock on the door.
He said someone turned on the public address system so that "you could hear the hysteria that was going on. I think whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."
As the shooting erupted, quick-thinking teachers and faculty members hid some students in closets and bathrooms, while others rounded up students and spirited them out of the building.
"A lot of children are alive today because of actions the teacher took," Dr. Janet Robinson, superintendent of the Newtown Public School District, told CNN. Robinson said Hochspring died trying to block Lanza.
Vance said the murder scene was so gruesome that first responders, including tactical squad police, were provided counseling later in the day. "This was a tragic, horrific scene they encountered,'' he said.
In Washington on Friday, a visibly shaken President Obama, wiping away tears, said he was "heartbroken."
These were "beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,'' Obama said. "They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays. Graduations. Weddings. Kids of their own."
Sandy Hook is in a residential, wooded neighborhood about 65 miles northeast of New York City. The school, which serves kindergartners to fourth-graders, has 39 teachers and nearly 700 students. A reverse 911 call went out to parents warning of an incident, shaking the quiet, middle- and upper-middle class community of 27,000 to its core.
"This is the most tragic thing we've ever encountered,'' said Newtown Police Lt. George Sinko. "We have to think about the families right now."
Hochsprung had been principal at Sandy Hook since 2010. She frequently tweeted photos from her job and wrote upbeat tweets about what was going on at the school.
More hauntingly, several publications report she wrote a letter before the school year outlining new safety measures including locked doors during school hours, beginning at 9:30 a.m. That wasn't enough to stop Lanza, who Vance said shot his way into the building.