By doing so, he may have destroyed valuable evidence that would help investigators understand his motives for killing his mother, 20 first-graders and six school employees at a Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Friday.
But in the age of cloud computing and multiple Internet-connected devices, authorities have no shortage of ways to follow his online footprints for clues, from acquiring his emails and search history to obtaining his online correspondence while he reportedly played "Call of Duty" on Xbox, experts said. "Your Internet history is very telling," said Monique Ferraro, an attorney and digital forensics expert. "Even without a hard drive, if he was on the Internet, and most people are, investigators will be able to tell quite a bit about what he was doing, where he was going and what he was thinking."
Lanza, 20, was reportedly adept at computers, belonging to a technology club at his high school, according to the Associated Press. Yet he also left investigators with a relatively light digital trail to follow. In addition to destroying his hard drive, hereportedly did not have a Facebook or Twitter account.
Lanza's hard drive would have been valuable because it likely stored documents and records of his Web browsing history, said Jeff Pederson, the company's manager of data recovery operations Kroll Ontrack.
Kroll Ontrack, which specializes in data recovery, has retrieved evidence from hard drives damaged by floods, fires, and even a melted disk drive from the space shuttle Columbia, which was destroyed in 2003. Whether or not a hard drive can be salvaged depends on the extent of damage to what are called "platters," the small discs where...