The success of Salem County Collision afforded the family beach vacations, private school tuition for their children and renovations to their stately home, said longtime family friend Alan Levitsky. Some of the work on the house — ramps and an elevator — was done to accommodate a wheelchair for Ciancia's mother, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, Levitsky said. She died in 2009.
"It was tough on the kids," he said.
In recent years, Ciancia's father had been training his son to take over the body shop, Levitsky said. In 2011, Ciancia graduated from the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, where he learned to fix Harley-Davidsons.
"He was a sweet kid. A good, quiet boy. Nothing abnormal," Levitsky said, adding that he showed no signs of the political obsessions on display in the note the FBI described. "I don't know where any of that came from. The dad is not political at all."
Ciancia moved to Los Angeles about 18 months ago, said Allen J. Cummings, the Pennsville police chief, who is friends with Ciancia's father. They had no indication Ciancia was struggling, Cummings said, or that he may have harbored anti-government sentiments.
"We don't really know what happened out West," Cummings said. "We don't know where he got his ideas or where that came from."
By Friday, Cummings said, Ciancia had sent text messages to his brother and sister, indicating that he wanted to harm himself. His sister alerted the LAPD, Cummings said, but officers visited his apartment and said they found nothing amiss.
Later that day, with news crews swarming LAX, Ciancia's father called Cummings. "I'm watching TV," he told the chief, "and I think this is my son at the airport."
Times staff writers Robert Faturechi, Brian Bennett, Rick Rojas, Jason Wells, Alicia Banks, Dan Weikel, Laura J. Nelson, Abby Sewell and Joseph Tanfani contributed to this article. Tanfani reported from New Jersey and Bennett from Washington, D.C.