The chief medical examiner of Connecticut, Wayne Carver, is looking inward toward determining the motive for the slayings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He is looking at Adam Lanza's genetics.
"I'm exploring with the department of genetics what might be possible, if anything is possible," Carver said to the Hartford Courant. "Is there any identifiable disease associated with this behavior?"
Early reports indicated that the killer had a form of autism spectrum disorder, possibly Asperger's syndrome. However, experts doubt that would explain the 20-year-old's violent rampage, since violence is not a risk factor for the disorder. Indeed, Carver says that he is not implicating autism spectrum disorder as a reason for the event.
While Carver has not revealed what exactly he hopes to find by looking at Lanza's genes, geneticists who explore the link between genetics and violence say that the mission will likely not reveal much. The strongest gene linked to violence is MAOA. Previous research has found that children with this gene are more predisposed to violence. However, the violent streak only appears in children who have been abused, meaning that the majority of children with this genotype do not become violent. Previous reports have not indicated that Lanza was abused.
Regardless, some lawyers have attempted to use the gene to minimize jail times for offenders. It has worked, with varying degrees of success. In many cases, judges have decided that the genotype is not relevant to the matter at hand.
MAOA also has been linked to abnormalities in the brain that cause increased impulsive aggression. That means that it is useless in determining an explanation for premeditated mass murder.
Genetic analysis can also indicate whether a person was predisposed for depression or schizophrenia. However, genetics is not destiny and just because a person has that gene, it does not mean they will go on to develop a particular condition. Also, of course, in both of those cases, most people with the condition will not go on to become violent.
In the end, experts say to NPR that better evidence will be obtained the old-fashioned way - by talking to people who knew him. Plus, it is likely that we will never have an answer. We have not yet gotten any explanation for the mass murders in Aurora, Colorado earlier this year or Columbine years before that.