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Portraits of Sandy Hook Victims begin to Emerge

Carolyne Volpe Curley

Saturday, December 15, 2012 • 9:18pm

NEWTOWN, CT - Sandy Hook, Connecticut is a small hamlet tucked into the town of Newtown, Connecticut. Residents there continue to process the news regarding yesterday’s horrific killings perpetrated reportedly by Adam Lanza.  

Lt. J Paul Vance of Connecticut’s State Police and Medical Examiner, Dr. H Wayne Carver II,  informed the public of the tragic details during at a 3:30pm press conference today.

There were 20 First Graders whose lives were extinguished yesterday.
Twelve of them were little girls
:
* Charlotte Bacon, 6
* Olivia Engel, 6
* Josephine Gay, 7
* Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
* Madeline Hsu, 6
* Catherine Hubbard, 6
* Grace McDonnell, 7
* Emilie Parker, 6
* Caroline Previdi, 6
* Jessica Rekos, 6
* Avielle Richman, 6
* Allison Wyatt, 6

Eight of the 20 children killed were boys:
* Daniel Barden, 7
* Dylan Hockley, 6
* Chase Kowalski, 7
* Jesse Lewis, 6
* James Mattioli, 6
* Jack Pinto, 6
* Noah Pozner, 6
* Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School were also killed yesterday;  some witnesses have said heroically in efforts to protect the children:
* Rachel Davino, 29
* Dawn Hocksprung, 47, Principal
* Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Special Education Teacher
* Lauren Russeau, 30, Permanent Substitute Teacher
* Mary J. Sherlach, 56, School Psychologist
* Victoria Soto, 27, 1st Grade Teacher

Reportedly, the 52-year-old Special Ed teacher, Anne Marie Murphy,  was killed while she was attempting to protect her students.  The police confirmed with her father, Hugh McGowan, that she “shielded the bodies of students with her own.” Murphy leaves behind her husband and four children. In her memory, Murphy's family asks that donations be sent to Autism Speaks, 1060 State Rd., 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ 08540.

"A first responder said she was a hero," McGowan said.   

Sandy Hook Elementary is a large school;  they teach 525 students from grades Kindergarten to 4th Grade. Witnesses have reported that the 47-year-old Principal of the school, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, was killed while she was doing what came naturally to her:  looking out first and foremost for her students.   

Tom Prunty’s niece goes to Sandy Hook and he considers himself a friend of Hochsprung’s. He was quoted by CNN as saying:   "She was really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense. She was the kind of person you'd want to be educating your kids. And the kids loved her.  Even little kids know when someone cares about them, and that was her," Prunty said. 

According to CNN’s afternoon report today, Hochsprung became principal at the school two years ago and had just begun a doctorate program in Education. She had her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Special Education.  

Reporting to CNN, a first grade parent, Aimee Seaver, described Hochsprung as “very well-liked, a compassionate woman, extremely helpful.  I never saw her without a smile, I believe she had the children's best intentions in mind all the time. She was always looking out for them."

On Hochsprung’s School Message Page Hochsprung wrote: “Sandy Hook School is a special place, and we thank our community for helping us to maintain our positive school climate.  We pledge to continue in our efforts to provide the best possible learning opportunities for our students, to ensure that they are valued members of our community, to encourage them to become good citizens, and to work closely with the entire Newtown community for the benefit of our children.“  Hochsprung is mourned by two daughters and three stepdaughters.

According to the Danbury, Connecticut news organization the News-Times, Lauren Russeau at age 30, was reportedly thrilled that her position as a substitute at Sandy Hook school finally became permanent and she could give up her part time job working at Starbucks.  Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, who works for the News-Times commented,  "It was the best year of her life.”  

Her father, Gilles Rousseau, added, “She was like a kid in many ways. That's why she liked working with kids so much. She died with her little kids.''

School Psychologist, 56-year-old Mary Sherlach would surely have been actively involved with comforting others this weekend.  On her school website page she wrote,  “I truly enjoy working with the SHS staff, parents and children and am always ready to assist in problem solving , intervention and prevention."  Sherlach wrote,  "During my employment for the Newtown Public Schools, I have participated in many district and building based committees,” which included the Newtown District Conflict Resolution Committee, the Safe School Climate Committee, the Crisis Intervention Team, and the Safety Committee.

Sherlach wrote that she was employed by Sandy Hook School in 1994, and prior to that she had extensive training in the Mental Health field.  

According to the New York Times, “When somebody had a personal tragedy in their lives that affected their children, then Mary would be a part of trying to help them come up with a solution for that child,” said Lillian Bittman, former chair of the Newtown Board of Education.

The Times reported that this was going to be Sherlach’s final year and she was set to retire.   “My husband Bill and I have been married 31 years and are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, ages 25 and 28,”  Sherlach shared on her webpage.  “We enjoy traveling and spending time at our lake home in the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. My hobbies include gardening, reading and the theater.”

“It was going to be her last year, that’s what she said,” commented friend John Button. “She loved her job, she’s done this for her whole career.”

The youngest of the adults killed, Victoria Soto, 27, was the First Grade Teacher in room 10.  On her school website she enthusiastically wrote: "This is my third year as a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook School!  I absolutely love teaching first grade!”

Soto wrote that she was an intern at Sandy Hook for 2 years, and then a long term substitute for the second grade.  “I am currently attending Southern Connecticut State University for my Masters degree in Special Education. I love and have a passion for learning.”

According to ABC News, Soto reportedly did her very best yesterday to get her students into a closet and out of danger.  Her cousin, Jim Wiltsie, explained to ABC that "the family was informed that she was trying to shield her children, get them into a closet and protect them from harm, and by doing that she put herself between the gunman and the children, and that's when she was tragically shot and killed."

Out of Soto’s sixteen students in Room 10, five of them were killed, reported ABC.

“In my free time, I love to spend time with my black lab Roxie. I love spending time with my brother, sisters and cousins,” Soto wrote describing herself.  “I love to spend time reading books on the beach soaking up the sun. I also love flamingos and the the New York Yankees. I look forward to an amazing year in first grade with my amazing students of Room 10!"

On their latest listing of the top 100 safest cities in America - Newtown was ranked the fifth safest city in America by the website NeighborhoodScout.com based on 2011 crime statistics.

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