MILFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds gathered in Milford, Conn. for a vigil Monday night, honoring a teenage girl who was stabbed to death – allegedly by a classmate.
As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, students and teachers carried candles and wore purple – the favorite color of Maren Sanchez, 16. In all, more than 1,500 people filed onto the Jonathan Law High School football field to try to get past the grisly murder.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, the principal of the school, members of the clergy, and friends of the slain high school junior were all in attendance. They spoke about trying to get past the shock, horror and despair of the event, and celebrate what the young woman stood for.
“She was a friend to everybody. She was kind; generous,” a young man said.
“It’s just really nice to see that there’s so many people out here, that are willing to come out and support,” a young woman said.
“This brings everybody together. I think that we can see how resilient the kids are – I mean, more than anything else, we can take from the kids that they’re the ones who came up with these ideas. They’re the ones who celebrated Maren,” said Milford resident Lee Avellenet.
The ceremony lasted just over an hour. Sanchez’s parents and grandmother were present, and did not speak, but rather listened to a series of tributes and prayers about the person they lost.
The students celebrated largely with song. They also listened to the victim herself, in a haunting recording that lovingly reassured the crowd and then suddenly went silent.
Earlier on Monday, classes at the school were canceled as shaken students came to talk to counselors.
“They all seem to be in some type of state of shock,” parent Rick Whitham said.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old student faces arraignment on murder charges in Sanchez’s slaying at the school, on the day of the junior prom last week.
The teen’s attorney, Richard Meehan, says his client is being held in a hospital under psychiatric evaluation and did not appear at his arraignment in New Haven.
The suspect is charged as a juvenile, but Meehan has said he expects him to eventually be charged as an adult.
Authorities said Sanchez died Friday after the stabbing.
Authorities have been investigating whether Sanchez was stabbed after turning down the boy’s invitation to the dance. Connecticut’s chief medical examiner said Sunday that Sanchez died of wounds to her torso and neck.
Sanchez, a member of the National Honor Society who was active in drama and other school activities, had been focused on prom in the days before her death.
She had posted a photograph on Facebook of her blue prom dress and was looking forward to attending with a new boyfriend.
“She had an infectious smile, you wanted to be around her,” the school’s drama director Michael Mele told CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport.
The junior prom was postponed on Friday because of the killing, but has been rescheduled. Sanchez is the honorary queen.
Sanchez performed in “A Christmas Carol” and was getting ready for the opening of “Little Shop of Horrors” this Friday.
“Today we’re going to bring the drama club in to step on the stage for the first time to remember our lost friend,” Mele said.
Mele said he and the kids in the drama club have decided the show will go on as scheduled. The performance will be a tribute Sanchez.
Organizers are seeking donations so the junior class can buy a memorial bench in Sanchez’s honor.
The suspect’s attorney released a statement to the victim’s family, saying: “We know they’ve suffered a tremendous loss and thoughts and prayers are with the Sanchez family.”
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