The teenager suspected in an Ohio school shooting struggled with a broken family and did poorly in school, then appeared to turn himself around once he was taken in by grandparents and began to attend an alternative school, longtime neighbors and friends said Wednesday
To a person, they expressed disbelief at how the quiet but friendly boy could now be a suspect in a shooting that left three people dead and appears to have involved a gun that disappeared from his grandfather's barn.
"T.J. was a very fine person," Carl Henderson, a longtime neighbor of the suspect's grandparents, Thomas and Michelle Lane, said Wednesday. "Nice-looking man, very friendly, spoke to you, carried a conversation with you."
The gun, a .22-caliber revolver, was noticed as missing after Monday's shootings and fits the description of the pistol that reportedly was used to kill three students and wound two others at Chardon High School, said Henderson, a retired police officer and former Geauga County sheriff. He said he has spoken to the grandfather, Thomas Lane, about the gun.
The suspect's grandfather believes the gun is the same, "because the gun was there the day before, in the barn," said Henderson, 74, who says he's been friends with the boy's family for nearly 50 years.
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the gun used in the shooting, a Ruger .22-caliber Mark III target pistol, was bought legally in August 2010 from a gun shop in Mentor, Ohio. The official said Lane told authorities he stole the gun from his uncle. It wasn't clear Wednesday whether the gun might have been the same one missing from the grandfather's barn.
Lane, 17, admitted taking a pistol and a knife to the 1,100-student Chardon High and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table, prosecutor David Joyce said.
Lane's father, Thomas Lane, 40, served seven months in prison in 2003 on charges of disrupting public service and felonious assault, according to state prison records. Messages were left Wednesday at numbers listed for Thomas Lane. Neighbors said he visited his son often, sometimes taking him and his sister camping or to the school to catch the bus.
At Chardon High, the faculty parking lot was jammed Wednesday as teachers returned to the school for the first time since Monday's shooting, with grief counselors on hand, if needed.
Hundreds of residents turned out for a vigil Tuesday evening at St. Mary Catholic Church to pray and hear Scripture readings.
Killed were Demetrius Hewlin, 16; Russell King Jr., 17; and Daniel Parmertor, 16.
The judge earlier barred media outlets from taking photos of the suspect's face but reversed himself Wednesday and said Lane may be photographed at a pending a hearing next Tuesday.