One of the most significant lingering questions about the Sandy Hook case is the killer’s hard drive: what was on it? Why did he obliterate it just hours before ending his own life, having committed one of the most heinous crimes in history in the intervening morning? What, if anything, was sufficiently shameful or incriminating that it had to be destroyed, in light of the extremely incriminating evidence found intact on the external USB drive he left intact in a nearby closet?
I don’t know. But I believe I’ve found a forum thread that at least explains why he erased his hard drive in this specific fashion.
As I recently established in the course of reporting a Columbine RPG Forum thread that likely explains Adam Lanza’s familiarity with Anarcho-primitivism, Adam Lanza was reading discussions on said forum long before he was actually participating in them. Thus, anything we find on the forum between 2007 and 2010 we can reasonably assume Adam Lanza read.
This particular post appears days after the Kaynbred account first appears, and about a month after the release of the english version of Bullet Time, an extremely obscure film written and produced by a member of the Columbine RPG forum, and a film which Adam would later demonstrate an intimate familiarity with. So, this discussion occurred during a window in which we know he was extremely active online, and paying particular attention to the Columbine RPG forum (recall that he was crafting his “mass murder spreadsheet” during this time, the filename of which he titled after the forum.)
One of his first acts after joining the forum seven months later was to share this same spreadsheet with the forum.
Indeed, Lanza would have been reading the discussion I am about to reference with far more attention than anyone else; the recent report from the Office of the Child Advocate conclusively establishes that his focus on mass murders was unprecedented compared to anything the FBI had ever seen, and the lens through which he viewed this information was primarily and undeniably the Columbine Massacre RPG forum (referred to in the report as “a small community of individuals that shared his dark and obsessive interest in mass murder. (pg 100)”
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the user “Sabratha” who was involved in the making of Bullet Time participated in this discussion. Adam Lanza definitely read Sabratha’s posts, and so this detail, almost by itself, establishes that Lanza would have read the following discussion.
How to erase a hard drive
The thread in question was initially posted on May 12, 2009, and the thread’s topic is The Eric and Dylan e-mails. The point of interest being discussed is a note from a news article, indicating that one of the Columbine shooters erased his hard drive in such a manner that investigators were never able to surface its contents:
They pored over e-mail among Harris and Klebold and friends. Most of the writings spoke only of teen-age concerns. Girls. Games. Television shows.
The investigators scrutinized Web postings and other writings — some from Harris’ computer — promising more death on April 26, a threat that never materialized.
Unlike Harris’ computer, Klebold’s offered no help.
Investigators concluded that Klebold had gutted the machine, erasing one of the two hard drives, leaving it blank.
“I can’t prove it,” Davis says. “But deep down in my heart, I think it was probably nuked either the day before, or that morning.”
What did Klebold have to hide?
“We’ll just never know,” Davis says.
While the intended topic of conversation in this thread was for everyone to speculate as to the contents of this hard drive that was owned by Dylan Klebold, the discussion starts to drift toward the how of the scenario more so than the what. Here are the relevant excerpts in light of the picture at the beginning of this post:
“Yeah Dylan made sure no one could read his HD, it’s a ticky proccess too. You have to clear it like 2 or 3 times just to make sure you can’t recover it. Whatever was on there he didn’t want anyone to see. I think it may have been to hide porn but that’s just my guess”
“But this takes a lot of time, I don’t know what for tools he had available, as OSX-User I am also able to erase my harddrive with some extra-features, and overwriting with these methods take multiple hours. He also ereased one of the two harddrives, the first one was maybe the OS only. If I would him I had destroyed; you just have to know what/where.“
“Couldn’t Dylan have just taken his computer stuff out to a field and smashed it up with a sledgehammer and dumped the remains? I’m not very tech-savy so that’s what I would have done in his position.”
“I know that Cho got rid of his harddrive in some unknown manner, I guess he wasn’t as tech-savy as Dylan so he had to physically get rid of it”
“Yeah, to destroy it or threw it away or burn it COMPLETELY would be the best thing”
“Firstly if you format a HD the data can be recovered. I know of a company in the United Kingdom, where I’m from that can restore data from a formatted HD. I expect they could recover something from one of Klebold’s two HD’s removed from his primary computer. And yes destroying the HD physically is the best way to go. The aforementioned technology is only what the Government is telling you about. “
While we of course cannot know with certainty exactly which of the Sandy Hook killer’s actions were inspired by these sorts of forum discussions, it is entirely reasonable to assume that he read this forum thread, and also that he lacked any sort of significant input beyond what he absorbed through his computer, given the information in this week’s report from the Office of the Child Advocate (also, recall that even when he was supposedly in college, his mother Nancy found him in the library rather than in class.)
In other words, it may seem presumptuous in a normal criminal case to assume that information found online was the exact information that a given criminal read and was inspired by, but this is not a normal case. Adam Lanza primarily existed, just seven months after this posting, as an online identity that read this exact forum, and was otherwise barricaded from the outside world in the sealed bedrooms on the second floor of his home. There can be no reasonable doubt that he read this thread, and his corresponding actions in 2012 leave no doubt that he took this information to heart, and subsequently took the contents of his hard drive the grave.