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Search warrants in Newtown school massacre might reveal more on motive

Nancy Lanza's home in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 18.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

Search warrant documents in the Sandy Hook massacre are expected to be released early Thursday and could shed more light on gunman Adam Lanza’s state of mind and motive in carrying out the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

The records were sealed in the immediate aftermath of Lanza’s Dec. 14 shooting rampage through the Newtown, Conn., elementary school, and Connecticut Superior Court Judge John F. Blawie extended the order for 90 days on Dec. 27 (here in .pdf). It covered the applications, affidavits and returns for five search warrants for the home in Sandy Hook where Lanza lived with his mother, Nancy, and for the black 2010 four-door Honda Civic sedan that he parked in front of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, communications manager for the Connecticut Judicial Branch, said Wednesday that the documents would be available Thursday morning. A statement from prosecutors working on the case also was expected to be made public.

On Wednesday afternoon, Blawie granted a motion from the state's attorney to redact some information in the records, including a witness name, a credit card number, telephone numbers and several paragraphs of one item. Serial numbers for several unidentified items also will be redacted. The sealing orders will be lifted at midnight Wednesday, and the documents were to be released by email at 9:01 a.m. Thursday.

Authorities say Lanza shot his 52-year-old mother to death at the home they shared on the morning of Dec. 14, then drove about five miles to the school, where he killed 20 first-graders and six teachers and staff members before fatally shooting himself. Two other teachers were wounded. The death toll is second only to the 32 killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre among U.S. school shootings.

Lanza, 20, used a Bushmaster .223-caliber XM15-E2S rifle with a 30-round magazine to shoot the victims at the school, authorities have said. In addition to the Bushmaster, authorities found a Glock 10mm semiautomatic pistol and a Sig-Sauer 9mm semiautomatic pistol in the school – one of which Lanza used to kill himself. In the Civic parked outside, police found an Izhmash Canta-12 12-gauge shotgun, which looks similar to a Kalashnikov rifle; it was not used at the school.

All those weapons were legally owned by Nancy Lanza, authorities have said. There have been reports that several more guns were found in her home, though NBC News has not confirmed that.

On Wednesday, the Lanza home looked untouched since the shooting -- a large Christmas wreath still at the door and holly wrapped in perfect form around the columns.

Authorities have kept tight control over information in the case, including any evidence that might give clues to Adam Lanza’s motivation.

There have been reports that he was obsessed with mass killers, including Norway’s Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a shooting and bomb attack in 2011. A law enforcement official told NBC News last month that Lanza had collected material on previous mass shootings, although the source said there was no indication that it played a role in the school massacre. Some reports also have suggested that investigators believe violent video games might have helped propel Lanza to violence, though authorities have not confirmed that. Like many young adults, Lanza was known to play a variety of video games, some violent and some not.

Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance told NBC’S TODAY in February that investigators “are a long way” from determining Lanza’s motive. Vance said investigators hope to have their report on the shooting completed by early June.

Access to information has become an issue with state lawmakers working on bipartisan gun-control legislation stemming from the massacre.

Lawmakers complained last week after the New York Daily News reported that a state police commander had disclosed evidence about the case at a law enforcement seminar in New Orleans. State House Republican Rep. Larry Cafero said lawmakers should be getting more information for their deliberations, and in response, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney had agreed to release more information this week.

Mark Dupuis, spokesman for the state Division of Criminal Justice, said Wednesday that the release would include the search warrant documents and a statement from prosecutors.

Adam Joseph, communications director for the state Senate Democrats, told NBC News on Wednesday morning that lawmakers still did not have a final agreement on the legislation and were waiting to see the search warrants before scheduling a vote, which could come as early as next week.

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