MILFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The family of a 16-year-old girl stabbed to death inside a Connecticut high school just hours before the junior prom said they are devastated and shocked.
Emergency responders were called to Jonathan Law High School in Milford shortly after 7 a.m. Friday.
Maren Sanchez, 16, was attacked in a hallway. Staff members and paramedics performed life-saving measures on her, but she later died at Bridgeport Hospital, Chief Keith Mello said.
Mello said Sanchez had a severe neck injury, but did not describe the attack.
A 16-year-old boy was taken into custody by a school resource officer in a matter of seconds, Mello said.
The boy was later charged as a juvenile with murder, but could be charged as an adult after his arraignment in New Haven on Monday, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported. His name was not released because of juvenile offender laws.
Investigators are looking into the possibility Sanchez had just turned down her alleged attacker’s request to attend prom together.
“I guess he just got really upset by that,” a student told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane. “That’s what I’ve heard so far.”
Others wondered if some jealousy was involved in the attack. They said Sanchez had a boyfriend who was taking her to the prom. Students said they think the suspect may have been a former boyfriend, CBS 2’s Sonia Rincon reported.
Police did not confirm anything that could shed light on motive.
“This is something that everybody wants to get to the bottom of and find out why it happened and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Mello said.
The attack was witnessed at least in part by a school staff member, Mello said.
Police called the deadly stabbing an isolated incident and later deemed the school safe. Students were sent home early.
“The unexpected and sudden loss of our beloved family member Maren Sanchez is both shocking and devastating,” her family said in a statement. “After a terrible experience like this we can never forget the lessons about school violence that must be learned from this tragedy. The unprovoked attack on Maren this morning has unfortunately for our family resulted in the permanent loss of Maren Victoria Sanchez, a bright light full of hopes and dreams with her future at her fingertips. Maren should be celebrating at her prom this evening with her friends and classmates. Instead we are mourning her death and we are trying as a community to understand this senseless loss of life. We need to ensure that more young children are protected from violent attacks at school.”
“We are obviously devastated by the loss of one of our students,” School Superintendent Elizabeth Feser said, adding that the honor student and athlete was well-liked by her peers and teachers.
“This is a difficult day for Milford. It’s an even more difficult day for the Jonathan Law High School community,” Mello said. “Anytime there is a death, it’s tragic. It’s especially difficult when it’s a young person, like we see this morning.”
Counseling services were to be provided to students at the school throughout the weekend, Champion reported.
Friday night’s junior prom was postponed. Instead, students attended a memorial tribute on a nearby Milford beach, Champion reported.
Sanchez’s boyfriend posed for a picture with her prom dress, surrounded by friends on a pier. It was the very dress Sanchez showed off on her Facebook page.
“She was just really fun loving, nice person. She was always happy and it took a lot to get her down,” friend Evelyn Castro said.
“She was like my best friend and now she’s gone,” Brittany Welkes added.
Flags in front of the school were lowered to half-staff, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
At the other end of the building, students had already spray-painted a large rock the color purple and wrote “Mare” and a heart in white.
Students described an emotional, somewhat chaotic scene with people crying as police and paramedics swarmed the school. Students flocked to social media sites to try to find out what was going on.
“In class I heard the rumor that someone fell down the stairs, so I didn’t really know what was going on until one of my friends told me that they saw someone get stabbed,” sophomore Jaret Petrie told Rincon.
Sarah Golden, a 14-year-old freshman, said she was sitting in the main lobby with friends Friday morning when she was startled by several security guards running down the hall. Then she heard a voice on a walkie-talkie say that someone had been strangled. She was shocked when she learned about the stabbing.
“I was trying not to freak out because it was really scary,” Sarah said. “I just don’t believe that something like that happened at my school. It’s something that seems so unreal.”
Golden’s sister, Rebecca, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said she saw the victim lying on the floor surrounded by teachers, some of whom were crying. She said she didn’t know what was going on at the time, and teachers directed her away from the victim.
Classmates told Rincon that Sanchez was a talented musician, a class officer, smart, well liked and respected.
“She was very sweet, very supportive of everyone. She was just always happy,” Rebecca Golden said.
“She was a 16-year-old junior, vibrant, very, very involved in Jonathan Law High School, an incredible contributor, someone who was loved and respected,” Feser added. “The Jonathan Law community mourns greatly the loss of Maren, and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”
A moment of silence was observed in Connecticut’s House of Representatives for Sanchez, and students and town officials said her death was devastating to the community.
“This is a terrible day here in Milford,” said state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, who represents Milford.
Students said the boy accused of stabbing Sanchez was well thought of.
“From what I knew, they were friends, until today. The kid who stabbed her, I talked to him before and he was a nice kid, but no one really knows what’s going on in people’s lives,” Petrie said.
“No one that I saw bullied him or tried to give him any problems. I liked him, I didn’t mind him. I didn’t think he was capable of what he did today,” sophomore Logan Danville said.
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