PROFILES: School shooting victims

NEWTOWN, Conn. - Most died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit no matter one's age. Others found their life's work in sheltering these little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own.

After the gunfire ended Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss was more than many could bear: 20 children and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

More: Full list of shooting victims | Images of shooting victims  | How you can help

  A glimpse of some of those who died:

CHARLOTTE BACON, 6, student:

   They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the new pink dress and boots to school.

   It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out. Charlotte's older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot.

   Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, had lived in Newtown for four or five years, JoAnn's brother John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minn., told Newsday.

   "She was going to go some places in this world," Hagen told the newspaper. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."

DANIEL BARDEN, 7, student:

   Daniel's family says he was "fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life."

   He was the youngest of three children and in a statement to the media, his family said Daniel earned his missing two front teeth and ripped jeans.

   "Words really cannot express what a special boy Daniel was. Such a light. Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy," the family said.

   His father, Mark is a local musician.á The New Haven Register reported that Mark was scheduled to play a show at a restaurant in Danbury on Friday, a show that was later cancelled.

   On the biography on his professional website, Mark Barden lists spending time with his family as his favorite thing to do.

  RACHEL D'AVINO, 29, therapist:

   Days before the Connecticut shooting rampage, the boyfriend of Rachel D'Avino had asked her parents for permission to marry her.

   D'Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school where she was killed, according to Lissa Lovetere Stone, a friend who is handling her funeral planned for Friday. D'Avino's boyfriend, Anthony Cerritelli, planned to ask her to marry him on Christmas Eve, Lovetere Stone said.

   Lovetere Stone said she met D'Avino in 2005 when D'Avino was assigned to her son, who has autism, in their town of Bethlehem. D'Avino, 29, was so dedicated she'd make home visits and constantly offered guidance on handling situations such as helping her son deal with loud music at a wedding.

   "Her job didn't end when the school bell rang at 3 o'clock," Lovetere Stone said.

   Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.

   "I'm heartbroken. I'm numb," Lovetere Stone said. "I think she taught me more about how to be a good mother to a special needs child than anyone else ever had."

 OLIVIA ENGEL, 6, student:

   The images of Olivia Engel will live far beyond her short lifetime. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. There's the one of her swinging a pink baseball bat, and another posing on a boat. In some, she models a pretty white dress, in others she makes a silly face.

   Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, says he could never forget the child, and he has much to say when he thinks of her.

   "She loved attention," he said. "She had perfect manners, perfect table manners. She was the teacher's pet, the line leader."

   On Friday, Merton said, she was simply excited to go to school and return home and make a gingerbread house.

   "Her only crime," he said, "is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old."

   JOSEPHINE GAY, 7, student:
 
   Josephine Gay had just turned 7, three days before the shooting.
 
   She liked to ride her bike on her family's quiet cul-de-sac, and over the summer she set up a lemonade stand, according to CNN.
 
   Josephine loved the color purple. On Monday, there were purple balloons attached to her family's mailbox, and on the mailboxes of all the neighbors. The yellow house she lived in had a jungle gym out back.
 
   A person who answered the phone at Mother of God Catholic Church in Covington, Ky., said Josephine was the great-niece of the pastor, Father Raymond Hartman.
 
   Polly Larsen in Sunnyvale, Calif., said she was close friends with the cousin of Josephine's mother.
 
   "`Joey' is a beautiful little girl, may she never be forgotten and live forever in our hearts," Larsen wrote on Facebook.

   DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47, principal:

   Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted

photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert, days before that the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.

   She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety,  too, and in October, 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "Safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.

   Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

   "She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."

 

  DYLAN HOCKLEY, 6, student:
 
   The Hockley family moved to Sandy Hook two years ago from England, in love with the sense of community and the elementary school that their boys, Dylan and Jake, would attend. Dylan's mother, Nicole, is American, and his father, Ian, is British.
 
   They moved into a house on the same street as the mother of the shooter, Adam Lanza.
 
   In a statement, the family said their youngest boy had thrived at Sandy Hook.
 
   "We do not and shall never regret this choice," the Hockleys said. "Our boys have flourished here and our family's happiness has been limitless."
 
   Dylan had a beaming smile. He played tag every morning at the bus stop with neighbors, bounced on the trampoline and played computer games. He loved the color purple, seeing the moon and chocolate. He was learning to read and was proud to show off his new skills to his parents. Jake was his best friend and role model.
 
   "We love you Mister D," the Hockleys wrote in their statement.
 
   Dylan also adored his teacher's aide, Anne Marie Murphy, and would point to her picture on the family fridge every day. They took great comfort, they said, knowing that when Dylan died, he was wrapped in Murphy's arms.

MADELEINE HSU, 6, student:

   Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine's house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.

   Velsmid said that after hearing of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.

   "We were waiting for casualties to come out and there was nothing. There was no need unfortunately," he said. "This is the darkest thing I've ever walked into by far."

   Velsmid's daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.

CATHERINE HUBBARD, 6, student:

 A family friend turned reporters away from the house but Catherine's parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.

   "We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy," Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. "We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy."

CHASE KOWALSKI, 7, student:

   Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing -- and winning -- his first mini-triathlon.

   "You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.

   Grimes' own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalski's ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper's car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.

NANCY LANZA, 52, gunman's mother:

   She was known before simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house. Now Nancy Lanza is being called the mother of a killer and his first victim.

   Authorities say Lanza's 20-year-old son Adam gunned his mother down before killing 26 others at Sandy Hook. The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighborhood, but details were slow to emerge of who she was and what might have led her son to carry out such horror.

   Court records show she and her ex-husband, Peter Lanza, filed for divorce in 2008. He lives in Stamford and is a tax director at General Electric. It wasn't clear whether Nancy Lanza had worked. A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She said her neighbor had enjoyed gardening.

   "She was a very nice lady," Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person."

JESSE LEWIS, 6, student:

   Six-year-old Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favorite breakfast sandwich -- sausage, egg and cheese -- at the neighborhood deli

before going to school Friday morning.

   Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, Conn., owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.

   "He was always friendly; he always liked to talk," Salazar said.

   Jesse's family has a collection of animals he enjoyed playing with, and he was learning to ride horseback.

   Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Journal that Jesse was "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."

ANA MARQUEZ-GREENE, 6, student:

   A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.

   The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the child's family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's pristine reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother was also at the school, but escaped safely.

   Elba Marquez had just visited the new home over Thanksgiving and finds herself perplexed by what happened.

   "It was a beautiful place, just beautiful," she said. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live."

JAMES MATTIOLI, 6, student:

   James Mattioli especially loved recess and math, and his family described him as a "numbers guy" who came up with insights beyond his years to explain the relationship between numbers. He particularly loved the concept of googolplex, which a friend taught him.

   He was born four weeks before his due date, and his family often joked that he came into the world early because he was hungry.

   They wrote in his obituary that 6-year-old James, fondly called `J,' loved hamburgers with ketchup, his Dad's egg omelets with bacon, and his Mom's french toast. He often asked to stop at Subway and wanted to know how old he needed to be to order a footlong sandwich.

   He loved sports and wore shorts and T-shirts no matter the weather. He was a loud and enthusiastic singer and once asked, "How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?"

   His family recalled that he was an early-riser who was always ready to get up and go. He and his older sister were the best of friends. He was a thoughtful and considerate child, recently choosing to forgo a gift for himself and use the money to buy his grandfather a mug for Christmas.

   A funeral for James will be Tuesday in Newtown.

   GRACE AUDREY McDONNELL, 7, student:

   With broken hearts, the parents of Grace Audrey McDonnell said Sunday they couldn't believe the outpouring of support they've received since the little girl who was the center of their lives died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

   Lynn and Chris McDonnell called their 7-year-old daughter "the love and light" of their family in a statement released by the little girl's uncle.

   The family also shared a photo featuring Grace smiling into the camera, her eyes shining and a pink bow adorning her long blonde hair.

   "Words cannot adequately express our sense of loss," the McDonnells said.

ANNE MARIE MURPHY, 52, teacher:

   A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.

   Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hour by hour ticked by. And then it came.

   Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. As the grim news arrived, the victim's mother reached for her rosary.

   "You don't expect your daughter to be murdered," her father told the newspaper. "It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere."

EMILIE PARKER, 6, student:

The father of Emilie Parker, 6, says his deep pain is comforted by the memory of how bright, loving and creative his daughter was.

Robbie Parker says his daughter was artistic and was always quick to draw a picture or make a card for friends. He says the world is a better place because Emilie was in it.

Parker, who was among the first parents to speak about the loss, struggled to collect his breath at first, much less to speak. He says he's not mad and expressed sympathy for the shooter's family.

Parker says, "She was beautiful. She was blond. She was always smiling."

A fund has been established in Emilie's name: Click here .

JACK PINTO, 6, student:

   Jack Pinto was a huge New York Giants fan.

   New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he talked to Pinto's family, which is considering burying the 6-year-old boy in Cruz's No. 80 jersey.

   Cruz honored Jack Sunday on his cleats, writing on them the words "Jack Pinto, My Hero" and "R.I.P. Jack Pinto."

   "I also spoke to an older brother and he was distraught as well. I told him to stay strong and I was going to do whatever I can to honor him," Cruz said after the Giant's game with the Atlanta Falcons.

"He was fighting tears and could barely speak to me."

   Cruz said he plans to give the gloves he wore during the game to the boy's family, and spend some time with them.

   "There's no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on," he said. "I can't even explain it."

   Jack's funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday at the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown, followed by burial at the Newtown Village Cemetery.

   NOAH POZNER, 6, student:

   Noah was "smart as a whip," gentle but with a rambunctious streak, said his uncle, Alexis Haller of Woodinville, Wash. Noah's twin sister Arielle, assigned to a different classroom, survived the shooting. He called her his best friend, and with their 8-year-old sister, Sophia, they were inseparable.

   "They were always playing together, they loved to do things together," Haller said. When his mother, a nurse, would tell him she loved him, he would answer, "Not as much as I love you, Mom."

   Haller said Noah loved to read and liked to figure out how things worked mechanically. For his birthday two weeks ago, he got a new Wii.

   "He was just a really lively, smart kid," Haller said. "He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad."

 

   CAROLINE PREVIDI, 6, student:
 
   Caroline Previdi had an infectious grin and a giving heart.
 
   "Caroline Phoebe Previdi was a blessing from God and brought joy to everyone she touched," her parents, Jeff and Sandy Previdi, said in a statement. "We know that she is looking down on us from Heaven."
 
   On Facebook, friends remembered when her big brother, Walker, was in preschool, and how Caroline would come with her mom to pick him up. A Sandy Hook dad posted photos of Caroline with another shooting victim, Olivia Engel, as well as his own daughter, who survived the attack. All three are grinning and wearing blue tutus.
 
   Family friend David Sutch said Jeff and Sandy talk about their children all the time. On Thursday, the day before the shooting, the Previdis' annual Christmas card arrived. It had a picture of Caroline and Walker on either side of the family's Lab.
 
   On Monday, Sutch wore a white shirt and green tie -- Sandy Hook's colors -- in memory of Caroline.
 
   Sutch, who lives in Brookfield, Mo., described the Previdis as loving and compassionate, always having other children over to the house, willing to befriend anyone.
 
   "I can't imagine a family that deserved this less," he said.


   JESSICA REKOS, 6, student:

   "Jessica loved everything about horses," her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos said in a statement. "She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses, and writing stories about horses."

   When she turned 10, they promised, she could have a horse of her own. For Christmas, she asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.

   The Rekoses described their daughter as "a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane.

   "She spent time writing in her journals, making up stories, and doing `research' on orca whales -- one of her passions after seeing the movie `Free Willy' last year." Her dream of seeing a real orca was realized in October when she went to SeaWorld.

   Jessica, first born in the family, "was our rock," the parents said. "She had an answer for everything, she didn't miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time." A thoughtful planner, she was "our little CEO."

   "We cannot imagine our life without her. We are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, and trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can't play with his best friend," they said.

   "We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are."

LAUREN ROUSSEAU, 30, teacher:

   Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook. Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, does not hold back when describing what the job meant to her daughter.

   "It was the best year of her life," she told the Danbury News-Times, where she is a copy editor.

   Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see "The Hobbit" with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was a Danbury native, a graduate of the University of Connecticut and the University of Bridgeport, a lover of music, dance and theater.

   "I'm used to having people die who are older," her mother said, "not the person whose room is up over the kitchen."

   MARY SHERLACH, 56, school psychologist:

   When the shots rang out, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, threw herself into the danger.

   Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools,

said Sherlach and the school's principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.

   Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.

   Her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Sherlach rooted on the Miami Dolphins, enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes, relished helping children overcome their problems. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance. In a news conference Saturday, he told reporters the loss was devastating, but that Sherlach was doing what she loved.

   "Mary felt like she was doing God's work," he said, "working with the children."

VICTORIA SOTO, 27, teacher:

   She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing, those who knew her say, what she loved.

   And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.

   Though details of the 27-year-old teacher's death remain fuzzy, her name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil.

   A cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News that investigators informed his family she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe.

   "She was trying to shield, get her children into a closet and protect them from harm," Wiltsie told ABC. "And by doing that, put herself between the gunman and the children."

   Photos of Soto show her always with a wide smile, in pictures of her at her college graduation and in mundane daily life. She looks so young, barely an adult herself. Her goal was simply to be a teacher.

   "She lost her life doing what she loved," Wiltsie said.

 BENJAMIN WHEELER, 6, student:

   Music surrounded Benjamin Wheeler as he grew up in a household where both his mother and father were performers.

   They left behind stage careers in New York City when they moved to Newtown with Benjamin and his older brother Nate.

   "We knew we wanted a piece of lawn, somewhere quiet, somewhere with good schools," Francine Wheeler told the Newtown Bee in a profile.

   She is a music educator and singer-songwriter. Sometimes the musical mother would try out tunes on her own children, with some tunes that she made up for Ben as a baby eventually finding their way onto a CD, she told the newspaper.

   In writing songs for children, melodies needn't be simplified, she said. "I try to make it my mission to always present good music to kids."

   Benjamin's father, David, a former film and television actor, writes and performs still, according to a profile on the website of the Flagpole Radio Cafe theater, with which he's performed in Newtown.

   The family are members of Trinity Episcopal Church, whose website noted that Nate, also a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was not harmed in Friday's shooting.
 

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