NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A New Rochelle man was arraigned on murder charges Wednesday in connection with the death of his 7-year-old daughter, whose body was found in her bed inside their home.
Police said Neil White, 47, is believed to have suffocated his daughter, 7-year-old Gabrielle White, but said the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s office will determine the exact cause of death.
Why the man would kill the vibrant girl — with her entire life ahead of her — was the question on the minds of a lot of people on Wednesday night.
It’s an incomprehensible loss for Michelle Hord-White — the mother of the murdered girl.
“She is a woman of great faith. I expect her to get through this. It will not be easy, and will never be over,” the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
The family pastor spent Tuesday night with Hord-White after the tragic discovery.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s babysitter, Tonette Mahon, was shaken and still in shock Wednesday from the girl’s death.
When CBS2’s Jessica Layton asked Mahon how she was handling it, she said, “Not well, not well.”
Mahon was deeply grieving Gabrielle’s loss.
“She was beautiful and I know the family, just — she was the light, she was the light of their lives,” Mahon said.
When asked if she ever saw such a horror coming, Mahon said she did not.
Police were still posted outside of the family’s town home Wednesday in the Arbor Glen complex where investigators say a babysitter walked into the horrific scene around 3 p.m. Tuesday, finding Gabrielle dead in her bed and her father bleeding from his wrists.
“She saw Mr. White had cuts to his wrist, saw some blood and then she checked on the girl and saw she wasn’t moving and called us,” said New Rochelle Police Captain Robert Gazzola.
Police said his wife, Michelle Hord-White, an executive at NBC, had filed for divorce in April. The two lived separately but had joint custody.
She issued the following statement Wednesday:
“No words could sum up all that Gabrielle meant to us but she was our light. We are broken and devastated that our sweet little girl is gone but we’re thankful that we had seven wonderful years with her. While we begin to mourn privately, we thank those friends, colleagues, neighbors and strangers for the tremendous support that we’ve already received. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly request donations be made online at the hordfoundation.org, P.O. Box 4671 Danbury, CT 06813.”
“On a personal note, for all friends of the family, this is devastating,” said New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson. “We are all struggling to comprehend.”
Neil White is a writer and political consultant.
“He lost himself and in that deep dark place he acted out. And there’s no logic or reason. It pushes the boundaries of reason that a father could kill his daughter,” Rev. Richardson said.
Neighbors were also stunned and saddened.
“Completely shocked. Disgusted,” one neighbor said.”Everyone is so loving here, it’s a quiet neighborhood. The kids just come out and play.”
“I’m devastated,” said neighbor Derek Lewis. “I have a son, like I said about her age, so, of course.”
“Nothing you can say but pray,” said neighbor Evoni Legette. “Pray for the family, pray for the little girl. That’s all you can do.”
The little girl, described as quiet and friendly, was in the second grade at the Ward School in New Rochelle.
In addition to soccer club, reading, and girl scouts, Gabrielle loved her church youth groups. A celebration of her life is being planned for here at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon.
Grief counselors are at the school on Wednesday. The school district issued a statement saying it and the Ward School are “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one our students.”
The investigation is ongoing.