Newtown shooting victims: Profiles


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The Independent US

Profiles of the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre...

Josephine Grace Gay

In a photo taken not too long ago, Josephine Grace Gay was captured seemingly mid-giggle, with her glasses perched precariously on the tip of her nose, a smile spread across her face, and what appeared to be a lime-green traffic cone atop her head. She had "playful spirit" and a "loving heart," her family wrote in an obituary published in the Newtown Bee newspaper.

Josephine was killed just three days after celebrating her seventh birthday. Survivors include her parents, Bob and Michele Gay; her sisters, Sophia and Marie; and three grandparents. Her family will gather Saturday for her memorial service at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn. In her obituary, her family asked those attending to wear purple clothing. Purple was Josephine's favorite color.

Rachel D'Avino, 29

Two days before Rachel D'Avino's death, her boyfriend asked her parents for permission to marry her. Anthony Cerritelli, D'Avino's "best friend," planned to propose on Christmas Eve, according to her obituary.

By all accounts, the woman he wanted to marry was doing a job she loved when she died. A behavioral therapist who was finishing a graduate degree at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn., D'Avino had joined the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School only a week before the shooting. She worked with special-needs children, including many with autism. One of two school aides who died, D'Avino, 29, reportedly was shot while trying to shield students. "Her passion . . . was her occupation," her obituary said. "She integrated these children into her daily life, often taking them into her home, hosting holiday and crafting parties for them, teaching them and treating them like family."

D'Avino's aunt, Christine Carmody, told the Journal News in southeastern New York that the family knew early on that D'Avino would go into education. "She always wanted to work with kids," Carmody said. Friend Lissa Lovetere Stone told the British publication Mail Online that D'Avino "had that gift, that maternal instinct. She cared for people." Other friends recalled her as loud, happy and energetic. Besides her work, her obituary said, she loved animals, cooking, photography and karate. A Connecticut native, she held a bachelor's degree from the University of Hartford and a master's from Post University in Waterbury.

She is survived by two sisters, two brothers, and her parents, Mary and Ralph D'Avino. Her family said in her obituary that her patience and natural ability to care for those with disabilities were a gift: "Ultimately, that gift would have given Rachel a level of understanding and forgiveness at this time of crisis that many of us wouldn't have." D'Avino's funeral is set for Friday. In her memory, her family has asked for donations to Autism Speaks, the science and advocacy organization.

— Corinne Reilly

Madeleine Hsu, 6

Each afternoon when the school bus pulled up, Madeleine Hsu's mother and little sister would be waiting for her. Mother and daughter always greeted each other with hugs, said Karen Dryer, a neighbor. "They were clearly very close and loved each other very much," said Dryer, who knew the 6-year-old as "Maddy." Maddy, Dryer said, was "a beautiful, gentle soul who was taken way too early." Shy and sweet, the first-grader would light up when she got a chance to pet Eli, Dryer's golden retriever, at the bus stop between their houses.

Attempts to reach Maddy's family and other neighbors were unsuccessful. A state trooper in the family's driveway told Dryer that the family wanted him there because they did not want to deal with the media. Memorial Web pages appeared on Facebook and, but they did not appear to be connected to the Hsu family. The only publicly visible online comment that appeared to come from Maddy's family came in the form of a hauntingly simple photograph.

A Facebook account belonging to Arline Arnold, believed to be related to Maddy, had its profile picture changed Friday night to show a young girl smiling brightly. In the picture, a pink bow in the young girl's hair matched the pink sweater she wore. Several people commenting on the photo offered their condolences.

Maddy and her family had moved to the neighborhood only in the past year or two, so Dryer did not know them well. She just knew what she saw at the bus stop.

Dryer's son, Logan, rode the bus with Maddy; he was a kindergartner at Sandy Hook Elementary School but was out sick on the day of the massacre.

Maddy would play with Eli, and her mother would laugh and say that she loved dogs. And then Maddy would go into her mother's arms, into the family's minivan and down the long driveway to their home.

— Mark Berman

Chase Kowalski, 7

Chase Kowalski, 7, was a towheaded boy with boundless energy At 6, he had completed his first mini-triathlon, according to an online obituary. The first-grader also ran in "many community road races." He joined the Cub Scouts, played on a Newtown baseball team and was always excited to tackle a building project at the Trumbull Home Depot's kids workshop.

In photos posted by his family, Chase was a blur of activity — helping his mother make a gingerbread house, perching on the back of a bronze tortoise sculpture, offering a double thumbs-up from the pool and accepting a lick on the nose from a small dog. In one shot, he swung at a baseball pitch with less-than-perfect focus: "Chase hitting it out of the park with his eyes closed!" reads the caption.

In his obituary, he was described "as an amazing son, brother, and grandson" whose heart "was only filled with love for all the people he touched." A family member who answered the phone at Chase's home said that the community has rallied around them. "They're taking care of us," she said during a brief interview.

Chase was always outside, playing in the back yard and riding his bicycle. "You couldn't think of a better child," neighbor Kevin Grimes told the Associated Press. Another neighbor, Keeley Baumann, 13, told Connecticut's Danbury News-Times that Chase knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas — his two front teeth. Both were missing.

— Jeremy Borden

James Mattioli, 6

Called "J" by his family and friends, James Radley Mattioli wanted to wear shorts and T-shirts in any kind of weather.

The first-grader was nearly always the first member of his family to wake up in the morning, according to his online obituary, and was proud of the fact that he could ride his bike without training wheels. James was especially close to his big sister, Anna, who also attended Sandy Hook Elementary School and who was helping him become a better reader. At school, the 6-year-old loved math and recess. At home, he loved to eat.  Hamburgers with ketchup were a favorite, as were his father's bacon omelets and his mother's French toast. He sometimes asked his parents, Mark and Cindy, how old he needed to be to order a foot-long sandwich at Subway, the obituary said.

The Mattiolis did not want to talk to the media, said a man who answered the phone at their home and identified himself as the boy's father. James would bolt outside to be with his dad whenever he was mowing the grass or grilling burgers. He enjoyed baseball, basketball, arm wrestling and playing games on the iPad. Family and acquaintances said one of James's greatest passions was swimming. He loved to swim at his grandparents' pools and to leap off the diving board at the Treadwell Pool, the obituary said.

"The proudest day as a lifeguard/teacher was when you finally did that cannonball," Sally Martinelli, who gave lessons to James, wrote in a tweet. "Keep swimming in heaven buddy," tweeted Portia Baudisch, who also gave James lessons. "I'm gonna miss you next summer."

— Luz Lazo

Caroline Previdi, 6

Caroline Phoebe Previdi loved to draw and to dance. She had huge brown eyes and a smile with an endearing space between her front teeth, and, as her family wrote in her obituary, she was "a lifetime resident of Sandy Hook."

The first-grader once went by the nickname "Boo" because she looked like the girl in the movie "Monsters, Inc.," said one family friend who declined to be named. "She was a total sweetheart. She was adorable." Another friend who lives in the Newtown area said Caroline, 6, loved gymnastics. "She was a spunky little girl. She had fire to her," the woman said. On Saturday morning, before all the victims' names became public, some who knew Caroline remembered her on Twitter. "R.I.P Caroline Previdi. You were a very sweet little girl and we will all miss you dearly. #PrayersForNewtown," tweeted Paige Tremblay.

Born Sept. 9, 2006, in Danbury, Conn., Caroline was the daughter of Jeffrey and Sandy Johnson Previdi, who have a younger son, Walker. As a newborn, Caroline was under the care of Eitan Kilchevsky, a neonatologist at Danbury Hospital who last saw her when he sent her home with her parents. But through the years, he said, he heard about her from an aunt who is a friend and neighbor.

"They are fine, go home, be happy" is the advice Kilchevsky said he gives new parents, "and that is how you expect it will turn out." On Wednesday, he said, he intends to be at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown for Caroline's funeral.

— Ian Shapira and Mary Pat Flaherty

Avielle Richman, 6

They called her "Avie." She was a curly-haired kid who shared the passion of her parents, Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman, for keeping active outdoors, according to her father's online postings and family acquaintances.

Avielle Richman took riding lessons on a pony named Betty at Zoar Ridge Stables and had none of the timidity around the big animals one might expect of a 6-year-old. Inspired by Merida, a character in the animated movie "Brave," she took up archery this past summer, firing arrows at a backyard target during breaks from watching the Olympics on television inside. She did a lot of summer reading that required trips to the library, and her parents rewarded her with an outing for lunch at a restaurant called My Place. She liked too many books to have just one favorite, and got out her crayons for Harry Potter coloring books. She had a black cat named Molokai who somehow defied gravity to reach the fireplace mantel; Molokai was caught just as a paw dipped into the fishbowl. Avielle's family's roots were in Connecticut. They moved back there in 2011 after living in San Diego. She received a kindergarten diploma from Sandy Hook Elementary School in June, and the family took a road trip across eight states to visit Iowa. She turned 6 years old nine days before Halloween and blew out the candles on a cake with white frosting and pink trim. The family went to the Castle Hill Farms fall festival and roamed through the pumpkin patch to find the perfect Halloween jack-o'-lantern. By then, first grade was well underway.

Just before school started, her father, Jeremy, marveled online, "Our little hummingbird is starting first grade tomorrow."

— Ashley Halsey III

Allison Wyatt, 6

Allison Wyatt celebrated her sixth birthday in July with six big pink candles on her cake and a gentle smile on her heart-shaped face. She loved to draw, her parents said in a statement released Tuesday, turning some rooms of her house into a makeshift art gallery, "with rows of pictures taped to the walls."

Cheyanne and Ben Wyatt described their daughter as "a kind-hearted little girl who had a lot of love to give". "She loved her family and teachers especially," they said, "but would often surprise us with random acts of kindness — once even offering her snacks to a complete stranger on a plane."

She could be silly, cracking her parents up with her goofy observations. "Allison made the world a better place for six — far too short — years, and we now have to figure out how to move on without her," they said. "Our world is a lot darker now that she's gone. We love and miss her so much."

— Ashley Halsey III

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Besides her red hair, Catherine Violet Hubbard's most striking characteristic was her love of animals. She wanted to protect and care for them — an ambition the first-grader is fulfilling even in death. In her memory, her parents, Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard, have asked people to donate money to the Animal Center, the Newtown animal shelter. So far, the center has received about 20 donations ranging from $20 to hundreds of dollars, said Harmony Verna, the director of the center's board. The center is pooling the donations submitted in Catherine's name and plans a project that will honor her, although they have not decided what it will be. Verna said members of Catherine's family had adopted animals from the shelter in the past.

"We are so touched and warmed that this family could reach through their grief to do something for us," Verna said. "This little girl wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian, and these donors are helping make that dream come true in some way."

Besides her love for animals, a death notice in the Newtown Bee said, Catherine's family will remember her for her constant smile. She leaves behind an older brother, grandparents, a great-grandmother, and four uncles and four aunts. Family members declined to talk about Catherine, who was 6, but her parents released a statement saying they were "greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter."

— Justin Jouvenal

Grace McDonnell, 7

When Grace Audrey McDonnell grew up, she wanted to be an artist and live on Martha's Vineyard and perhaps paint seascape scenes with an easel on the beach.

"A beautiful and artistic soul," her family said in an obituary, "Grace was truly a gift from God and represented all that is good in this world." With a cherubic face, dark-blonde hair and blue eyes, Grace was an outgoing girl often seen by neighbours playing in her family's front yard. The Werden family lives across the street from the McDonnell home in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown. The two families shared a school bus stop. On many mornings, the Werdens saw Grace's father, Christopher McDonnell, a competitive runner, out for jog. Todd Werden described Grace as a "real little doll" and called her death "heartbreaking." "It's just unfathomable," he said.

Tania Domingos, 21, who lives next door to the McDonnells, said they were well regarded in the wooded neighborhood. "The family is very nice. They are very kind people," Domingos said. "It's obviously such a tragedy."

Grace McDonnell is survived by her parents, Christopher and Lynn Zapf McDonnell; her brother, Jack Sheridan McDonnell; and her grandparents. The McDonnells requested that donations be made to the Grace McDonnell Memorial Fund at the Fairfield County Community Foundation in Norwalk, Connecticut.

In a statement, her family wrote: "We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from so many people. Our daughter Grace was the love and light of our family. Words cannot adequately express our sense of loss."

— T. Rees Shapiro

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

Jazz musician Jimmy Greene sometimes drew inspiration from his family when he wrote his melodic riffs. A few years back. he wrote a composition for his tenor saxophone and named it in honor of his youngest daughter, Ana Marquez-Greene. He called it "Ana Grace" and recorded it for a 2009 album.

On Friday, the little girl who inspired her father's music was among 20 children who were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Family friends said they were devastated by the news about Ana, who only recently moved to the area with her family from Canada so her father could take a new job as a professor in the music department at Western Connecticut State University. A woman who answered the phone at the family's home Saturday said they were not interested in talking. "We just lost our daughter," she said. On his Facebook page Saturday, Greene thanked everyone for their support as his family tried to "work through this nightmare."

"As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you sweetie girl," he wrote, according to the Associated Press. The family had spent the past three years in Winnipeg, where Greene was teaching at the University of Manitoba. They had enrolled their kids at Sandy Hook because of its good reputation, his wife's relatives in Puerto Rico told the AP. Greene, 37, is a well-known tenor saxophonist who has made several albums and toured the country, playing with musicians including Harry Connick Jr. His wife, Nelba, played wood instruments, then became a therapist.

Bozzi described Ana as "full of life and just beautiful," adding: "Jimmy is the kindest, most generous guy and instilled those qualities in his kids."

Ana and her older brother Isaiah had attended Linden Christian School in Winnipeg before moving back to the United States, the Canadian press reported, and their former church held a candlelight vigil in Ana's honor Friday evening. In a posting on his website made before the shootings, Greene wrote: "In my life, there is but one constant, the one thing I can rely on, no matter what I'm dealing with, and that's the steadfast love of God."

— By Annie Gowen

Emilie Parker, 6

Emilie Parker always carried markers and pencils, her father said — she rarely missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card that would make others feel special or better.

Her father, Robbie Parker, 30, stood before microphones Saturday night and told the world about the oldest of his three daughters: his 6-year-old with blond hair and blue eyes. Emilie was the one that the two younger daughters, ages 3 and 4, always looked up to, he said. She was their mentor. She taught them how to dance, said Parker, and how to laugh. Before she died, Emilie was teaching his middle daughter how to read, and the youngest how to do arts and crafts. "They looked up to her. They looked up to her when they needed comfort," said Parker, a physician assistant. "They'd run to Emilie for hugs and kisses."

In their last moment together, Parker said, he was leaving for work and she spoke to him in Portuguese, which she'd started to learn. "She said she loved me, and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door," he said. Parker described his daughter as bright and creative. "Emilie was always willing to try new things, other than food," her father said, with a hint of a smile.

After her grandfather died in an accident not long ago, Parker said, "she placed a very special card that she had made into the casket with her grandpa."

A Facebook page has been set up by friends and relatives to help raise money for the family.

"We are truly surrounded by great people. So many have asked what they can do to help. . . . Right now we are still working through the initial shock of [Friday's] events," wrote one of the page's founders, Alan Prothero. "The many kind words that have been shared on this page lift ALL of us, not to mention the Entire Parker/Cottle family!"

The page features photos of Emilie with her sisters and parents. Another shows her mother and father on the day of the rampage. They are in a state of shock.

— By Ian Shapira

Noah Pozner, 6

First-grader Noah Pozner attended Sandy Hook Elementary with his twin sister, Arielle, and an older sister, Sophia, 8. Like many twins, the Pozners had been assigned to different classes. Arielle survived Friday's rampage. Noah did not.

Noah was a "rambunctious little maverick" who was "smart as a whip," said his mother, Veronique, speaking through a relative. He loved his family, his parents, his siblings and especially his twin, she said. "He called her his best friend," she added.

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Adath Israel in Newtown, Conn., said that Noah and his family belonged to his congregation and that he had spent much of Friday with the boy's mother. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Praver said. An inquisitive and "very warm" child, Noah liked to ask about how the world worked, recalled his uncle, Arthur Pozner, who saw Noah for Hanukkah in Brooklyn the Saturday before the shooting. Noah asked him question after question, he recalled, at one point wondering about the digital display on the toaster-oven.

"Is the toaster going to reach 10,000 degrees?" Noah asked his uncle. "Ten thousand degrees would melt diamonds," his uncle recalls telling him. Arthur Pozner said Noah often seemed beyond his years. "For a 6-year-old, he was a very smart kid," he said.

Another relative said Noah loved the Mario Brothers, and "everything was superheroes." He adored animals. He loved reading.

Noah's mother is a nurse, and his father, Leonard, works with computers. The family appreciated their charming old New England town and its strong schools, Arthur Pozner said.

"One of the reasons they moved there as the schools," he said. "They were very good. And it was very safe."

Arthur Pozner had seen his nephew more lately because his home in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn — where Noah's grandmother lives too — was flooded after superstorm Sandy, and Noah's family came to visit a number of times. He and his nephew had talked about the "Hobbit" movie, which Noah wanted to see. Arthur Pozner said he talked to his brother, who is Noah's father, Friday evening. The grieving father could not bear a long conversation, he said, but spoke of Noah's sisters and asked: "What do I tell them?"

By Donna St. George and Rick Maese

Lauren Rousseau, 30

When Lauren Rousseau was in fifth grade, she had a teacher she loved. Always bubbly and outgoing, the young Lauren would come home and tell her parents or her two younger brothers about Mr. Hochsprung and what they did in class that day: Tap a maple tree to learn about botany and how syrup was made, or learn how to make apple cider with a press.

She had talked about wanting to be a teacher since she was a small child, according to a statement from her mother, Teresa Rousseau. Her father, Gilles Rousseau, said it was in fifth grade that she knew for sure: She wanted to be a teacher like "Mr. H."

In November, after several years of substitute teaching, catering and working at Starbucks, she was hired to be a full-time substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. In one of the unexpected links of small-town life, her principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was the wife of George Hochsprung — Mr. H.

On Friday, Rousseau and Dawn Hoschsprung were both killed at Sandy Hook.

Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau was a serious student, always reading, and after graduting from the University of Connecticut she earned her master's in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport. But for several years, she couldn't find a full-time teaching job. Her father finally asked if she should think about another career. He recalls that she told him, "I want to be a teacher.'"

So when she got the job at Sandy Hook, she was thrilled: She loved the principal, loved the school, loved the children. "She was still a little girl at 30," Gilles Rousseau said. "She loved little kids; she was in their zone." Even though she was a substitute, and had to keep a second job at Starbucks to have health insurance, she impressed people right away with her eagerness.

"She might have kindergarten in the morning, fourth grade in the afternoon, and [in the] library she could teach how to do research in online databases," said colleague Yvonne Cech, but she had no trouble with that.

Rousseau loved to talk about the school. She would tell her dad about the things the children did that day, how one of them had learned something in a new way, and about Sandy Hook's principal. He wasn't surprised that she loved Dawn Hochsprung.

"She's the kind of person you meet and five minutes after being around her, you want to hug her and give her a kiss — a very likable, warm person, a wonderful person."

Even as Rousseau's father tried to understand how something so cruel could happen at a place his daughter loved so well, he mourned for someone else's loss as well: George Hochsprung.

— By Susan Svrluga

Mary Sherlach, 56

For 18 years, Mary Sherlach went to work as the school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary. She was the person children could see if they had difficulty keeping up in class, if they had emotional problems, or if they simply wanted to talk.

"She considered what she was doing as God's work — that's all you need to know about her," her husband, William Sherlach, a Morgan Stanley financial consultant, said by telephone from the family's home. Sherlach, 56, the mother of two grown daughters, was in a meeting at Sandy Hook with Principal Dawn Hochsprung when they heard gunfire Friday morning, according to news accounts. Sherlach and the principal bolted from the meeting to run toward the sound. Sherlach was known for her steady commitment to her work, which required that she navigate complex issues such as dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, chronic misbehavior and whatever emotional issues children might bring to school from home.

"She was an extremely dedicated professional," said Sandra Zuccarello, a Sandy Hook reading teacher who, overcome with emotion, abruptly ended a phone call. Sherlach and her husband were looking forward to retiring to her family's lake house in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York, about 75 miles from Binghamton, N.Y., where she grew up, the daughter of an IBM executive and an English professor, according to Jeanne Stocker, a childhood friend.

Sherlach is survived by two sisters and two brothers, one of whom is her twin, Stocker said.

"As a kid, she was a girly girl; she loved to go sailing, she loved to read," Stocker said. "She was a very good student, all through high school and college."

Sherlach attended the State University of New York at Cortland, where she met her husband, an economics major who played varsity football. She obtained a masters degree in psychology at Southern Connecticut State University in 1992. Before joining Sandy Hook's staff two years later, Sherlach worked at a group home for disabled adults and as a community mental-health placement specialist, according to her Web site.

Sherlach and her husband have two daughters. Maura, 28, is married and teaches high school chorus in New Jersey. Katy, 25, is studying for a PhD in chemistry at Georgetown. Roger Conway, 74, Sherlach's neighbor in Trumbull, Conn., said she often spoke about her work. "She talked about bringing children along," he said, "no matter their difficulties."

— By Paul Schwartzman

Vicki Soto, 27

Vicki Soto greeted the new school year as she always had: with unbridled enthusiasm.

"I absolutely love teaching first grade," she wrote in her biography on the school's Web site. "I look forward to an amazing year . . . with my amazing students!"

Soto was the fun one, the kind of teacher who sent a September newsletter to parents with funny self-portraits of all her students in the margins. When she started out as a substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, she was an instant hit with students, who loved hearing her stories about growing up in Stratford.

"The kids would say, 'Oh, Ms. Soto is subbing in your class today? You're so lucky,' " said Tess Mubarak, a former student.

Soto, 27, later became a first-grade teacher, a job she had coveted since she was a first-grader herself. She had earned all the necessary credentials. But it was a certain girlishness — ("I also love flamingos and the New York Yankees," she enthused in her bio) — that children responded to.

She, in turn, was devoted to them. The last time her cousin Jim Wiltsie saw her was Thursday night, at the wake of a child who died of spinal meningitis. One of Soto's younger sisters used to babysit the child. The cousins chatted briefly. With the holidays approaching, they expected to see each other soon.

On Friday, Soto was in her classroom when a gunman barged in. She herded some pupils into a closet before she was killed. She died, officials told the family, trying to protect the kids.

"She put herself between the gunman and the children," said Wiltsie, a police officer. "Her instincts as a teacher kicked in."

Victoria Soto grew up in Stratford and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University, where she double-majored in education and history. But there was never any doubt that teaching was her priority.

Once Soto started working at Sandy Hook five years ago, the school quickly became "the center of her universe," her cousin said. She started out as an intern and a substitute teacher for second- and third-grade classes. Three years ago, she became a first-grade teacher. She juggled teaching and attending graduate school. She was working toward a master's degree in special education at Southern Connecticut State University.

"Her students weren't her students. They were her kids," Wiltsie said. "Hug your loved ones," Carlee Soto, one of her sisters, wrote on Twitter the morning after the shooting. "Tell them how much you love them because you never know when you'll see them again. Do this in honor of Vicki."

— By Annys Shin

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Dawn Hochsprung, the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was known for her playful passion and infectious laugh. A month ago, she dressed up as the Sandy Hook Book Fairy — wearing a crown and a dress that lighted up — to inspire first-graders to read.

"She was always enthusiastic, always smiling, always game to do anything," said Kristin Larson, the former secretary of the school's PTA. "When I saw her at the beginning of the school year, she was hugging everyone."

"She was an educator," Larson said, her voice choked with emotion as she spoke by phone. "She wanted them to do well in school, but she also wanted them to have fun."

Diane Day, a therapist at the school, told the Wall Street Journal that she was in a meeting with Hochsprung about 9:30 a.m. when they heard shots. Hochsprung and a school psychologist ran toward the sound of the gunfire, Day said.

William Glass, a deputy school superintendent in Danbury, told the Stamford Advocate on Friday that he had received confirmation that Hochsprung was one of the adults killed at the school. Glass told the newspaper that he had previously hired Hochsprung to work as an assistant principal in the Danbury school system. "She had a tremendous intellect and a wonderful way with children," he told the newspaper. Hochsprung, 47, was married to George Hochsprung, and is the mother of two daughters and three stepdaughters, according to a 2010 article in the Newtown Bee, a community newspaper. She became Sandy Hook's principal in 2010, telling the newspaper at the time, "I don't think you will find a more positive place to bring students to every day." Before that, she had worked for 12 years as an administrator in public schools.

Lynn Wasik, whose daughter attends Sandy Hook, said Hochsprung could often be seen crouching down to speak to her students at eye level. "She connected with the children," Wasik said.

Hochsprung maintained a Twitter account, from which she regularly kept her 1,000 followers informed about what was happening at the school. On Thursday, she wrote that she was "setting up for the Sandy Hook nonfiction book preview for staff." On Wednesday, she had written that her students were "enjoying the rehearsal for our 4th grade winter concert."

A number of her tweets were accompanied by photographs of a school she seemed proud to show off. A photo she tweeted Oct. 17 showed her students lined up outside for an evacuation drill. "Safety first at Sandy Hook," Hochsprung wrote.

— By Paul Schwartzman

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Special-education assistant Anne Marie Murphy — mother of four, protector of so many more — died trying to save her students, according to her father. Hugh McGowan said Murphy was found in a classroom, shielding a group of her beloved children. "A first responder said she was a hero," McGowan told Newsday.

Of course she was, said her friend Amy Potucek. "She was so selfless," said Potucek, who worked at Sandy Hook until moving recently to another school. "I know that Anne Marie was doing everything she could to keep those kids safe, to protect them, because she loved them."

Murphy, 52, was raised about half an hour away in Katonah, N.Y., where her parents still live. She had six siblings and a serious joie de vivre. Her mother, Alice McGowan, told Newsday that her daughter was "a happy soul" who was devoted to her work and family. The youngest of Murphy's four children is now a senior in high school; the others have gone on to college and into adulthood. But always, they reconvened at the family home on Great Ring Road. Reached there Sunday, her husband, Mike Murphy, an engineer, said his emotions were too raw for him to talk. "It's too early, too soon," he said.

The Murphys lived about five miles from the school, near the end of a rural road, by a pond where the kids ice-skate every winter. Anne Marie Murphy tended to brighten the bucolic place, a neighbor said. "She's a lovely lady, always very pleasant and very upbeat," said Gerald George, who has lived next door for about 15 years. They would always exchange pleasantries and chat about town news.

"It's just horrific, what's happened," he said. "I can't fathom the idea that she's gone and won't be pulling into the driveway next door, waving and smiling."

Murphy was a certified teacher who began volunteering at Sandy Hook when her children attended the school, friends said. She settled on working as an educational assistant at Sandy Hook "to be close to and available to her husband and to her children," Potucek said. "She was the absolute rock in that family."

She loved walking outdoors, and she loved going to the movies — though she usually avoided the violent ones. And she never saw anything when it was new, always waiting until it landed at the Edmond Town Hall theater, a second-run cinema on Main Street. "It's only $2 to get in," Potucek said. "And she had four kids." She laughed. It felt right.

"Anne Marie was was always so positive," Potucek said. "She would take any situation and make it happy. She would turn it around and look for the good." On Saturday, Murphy had planned to get together with some of her friends for a holiday cookie exchange. They would have eaten too much and laughed even more, and they would have had a great time, friends said. They always did.

- By J. Freedom du Lac

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Even as a toddler, Benjamin Wheeler had the bright eyes and comedic timing of a performer. His father, David, was a longtime actor. His mother, Francine, recorded bouncy children's music. And Ben loved cracking them both up.

In a "happy birthday" video for Ben's grandfather — which was posted online in 2008 and featured big brother Nate drawing a green, yellow and purple birthday robot — Ben kept going off script with his own improvisations. Instead of birthday wishes, he kept giving hearty shout-outs to Grandpa's wife Kay-Kay instead, to his parents' clear delight.

"He was a feisty little 6-year-old," said family friend Sophfronia Scott. "He and my son loved to run and jump and throw leaves and everything you thought a young boy would love to do."

Ben was creative like his parents. He painted kid pictures and studied piano with his mother, who gives lessons. The Sunday before he died, he had a recital with fellow students. "Spirited" is how Rabbi Shaul Praver of the Adath Israel congregation in Newtown put it. Though Ben and his family were members of Trinity Episcopal Church, they attended the Hanukkah celebration at the synagogue. "There's always some brave individual who goes up to the dance floor to get everybody involved," Praver said. "That was Ben Wheeler."

Ben's comedy was a hit among the under-10 set. Scott's son, Tain, 8, recalled that when they would watch TV together, Ben would offer his own voice-overs for TV characters. Ben would replace a bit of dialogue, such as "follow the flashing light," with the much more popular "follow the flashing butt."

"That's what kids do," Scott said.

The adults were some of his biggest fans. When the grown-ups and kids gathered at David Wheeler's birthday party last year, Darryl Gregory, Scott's husband, performed a playful song titled "Too Many Kids in This House." As Ben and the children were laughing, getting swept up in the rollicking tune, Ben cut in with a pretty important question: What does he mean there are too many kids in this house?

The house went wild. "There were times we would say, 'Ben is smarter than all of us,' " Scott said.

- By Michael Laris and Patricia Sullivan

Jessica Rekos, 6

Six-year-old Jessica Rekos loved animals, especially horses and whales.

When she was not in school, Jessica watched horse movies, read horse books, drew horses and even wrote stories about horses. "Jessica loved everything about horses," her parents, Richard and Krista, said in a statement released Sunday.

"We had promised her she could have her very own horse when she turned 10," her parents said. "She asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat."

Jessica also had a love for whales, specifically orcas. Jessica fell in love with the sea mammals last year when she saw the movie "Free Willy." Jessica became fascinated with the whales and began researching them and writing about them in her journals Her dream, after seeing that movie, was to see an actual live orca up close. In October, Jessica got to do so when she took a trip to SeaWorld. Jessica was the oldest of three children. Her younger brothers are named Travis and Shane.

"Jessica was our first born. She started our family, and she was our rock. She had an answer for everything, she didn't miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time," the family said in the statement. On a family Facebook page, a photo of Jessica shows her wearing a pale-pink polo dress. Her grayish-blue eyes beam into the camera lens. In the photo, her arm is wrapped around one of her younger brothers. In another family photo, taken on Cape Cod, Jessica stands in the background with her hand on her mother's shoulder as her family sits in the sand.

"We called her our little CEO for the way she carefully thought out and planned everything. We can not imagine our life without her," the family said. "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. We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are."

-By Keith L. Alexander and Lynn Bui

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Charlotte Bacon, who would have turned 7 in February, was anything but shy.

She was smart, outgoing, precocious and persistent, said her uncle John Hagen of Minneapolis. "She had a big personality," Hagen said. "She could carry on a conversation with any adult. She challenged my sister every day. She knew how to get what she wanted."

Case in point: Charlotte's mother, Joann, bought her a pink dress and white boots for the holidays. Charlotte had been begging to wear her new outfit early. On the last day of Charlotte's life, her mom had finally given in.

Another story that stands out in Hagen's mind — the time the Bacons were vacationing with extended family at a lake. Charlotte was 4 or 5. "I watched her jump off a pontoon into the water without any hesitation," Hagen said. "She just did it."

Charlotte had curly dark-red hair. She loved the color pink and going to school. She was so smart, Hagen said, that her parents were thinking about putting her in a special private school because they worried she wasn't being challenged enough. "This girl was definitely going places," her uncle said.

Charlotte was born in the Chicago area, a couple of years before Joann and husband Joel relocated to Connecticut. Joann is a stay-at-home mom. Joel, who holds a Ph.D., works in New York. Their 9-year-old son, Guy, also was at Sandy Hook on Friday but wasn't harmed. Despite having only one sibling, Charlotte had a big family. Joel is one of three brothers. His parents are retired missionaries who now live close to him. Joann, who grew up in Minnesota, is the youngest of six children.

Charlotte also loved being a Girl Scout, and her mom was her troop leader. "There were 10 girls in the group," Hagen said. "Only five are left."

- By Corinne Reilly

Jack Pinto, 6

Six-year-old Jack Pinto was a lover of sports and a big New York Giants fan.

The Sandy Hook Elementary first-grader, who was killed during Friday's shooting at the school in Newtown, Conn., was a big admirer of star Giants receiver Victor Cruz — so much so that his family told the player they were considering burying their son in his jersey, according to a report on the National Football League's website. Cruz, who spoke with the family Saturday after friends told him on Twitter that the boy was a fan, said he would honor Jack by wearing his name on his cleats during the Giants' game Sunday against the Falcons.

On Sunday morning, Cruz tweeted photos with the words "Jack Pinto 'My Hero' " written on one of his cleats and "RIP Jack Pinto" on the other.

"My sincerest condolences to the entire Pinto family," Cruz said via Twitter. "My prayers are with you during this extremely difficult time."

Jack was also an avid wrestler with the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association. At Sunday's morning match, friends honored him with a moment of silence.

"Our hearts ache for his family & all the families," the association tweeted on Saturday.

Jack, who was born in Danbury, Conn., also liked flag football, baseball, basketball, wrestling and skiing and brought "immeasurable joy" to those who knew him, according to an obituary in the News Times. "Jack was an incredibly loving and vivacious young boy, appreciated by all who knew him for his lively and giving spirit and steely determination," the obituary said.

Jack, who had a brother, Benjamin, was the son of Dean and Tricia Pinto. The family could not be reached Sunday and has asked for privacy. Friends and strangers posted messages and poems on a guest book and a Facebook page, with many calling him "sweet little angel."

- By Luz Lazo

Daniel Barden, 7

Daniel Barden, 7, was an active first-grader and the beloved youngest son of his doting mother and father, Mark and Jackie. "Daniel was fearless in his pursuit of happiness and life," his family wrote in a statement released to the media. "He earned his ripped jeans and missing two front teeth."

"He embodied everything that is wholesome and innocent in the world," the statement said. "Our hearts break over losing him and for the many other families suffering loss."

The Bardens are often shuttling their children from one activity to the next, said friends, colleagues and neighbors who admired their ability to keep up with their children's active schedule. This summer, Daniel scored the final goal in the last game of the soccer season. He loved to swim, and his mother's Facebook page featured a photo of her three children smiling at the beach. On Sunday morning, she posted a public note on Facebook saying, "Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers."

Jackie Barden is a second-grade teacher at Pawling Elementary School in Pawling, N.Y. She is one of the school district's reading specialists. "She is a wonderful mom," said Lynn Maloney, who teaches second grade in the classroom next to Barden's. "She was extremely close to her children. She's a teacher and I'm a teacher, and children are really the centers of our world. She adored her family, and I am sure she must be devastated, like any mom."

It was around 9:30 a.m. when Barden learned there was a tragedy at her son's elementary school, colleagues said. A guidance counselor drove a shaken Barden back to Connecticut, where she learned about the loss of her son.

Jackie's husband, Mark Barden, is a rock guitarist who plays at places such as Proud Mary's, a local bar, according to Javier Mendizabal, who works there. A forum had been set up on a message board at to offer condolences. One man referred to Mark Barden as a "kind, gentle and humble man, as well as one of the most talented guitarists I know."

On Saturday, friends and family members gathered in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown to visit the Bardens. A local pastor prayed with them. Daniel's brother, James, and sister, Natalie, are listed as ages 12 and 10 on a bio on Jackie Barden's school web page. The bio says the family has a pet ball python named Todd and a tortoise named Queenie.

Even for neighbors who did not know them intimately, such as Peter Bernson, there is an image they would see each morning they are sure they will miss — a smiling, laughing boy with a reddish-brown mop top and missing two front teeth, hoisted on his father's shoulders, headed to the school bus stop.

- By Robert Samuels

Olivia Rose Engel, 6

In nearly every Facebook photograph of Olivia Rose Engel, the 6-year-old girl is smiling.

In one photo, she is wearing a ladybug costume, her cheeks flushed and scrunched up in a grin. In another, she is standing in front of a Christmas tree, stopping mid-decoration to pose for the camera. In another, she is dressed in white, light streaming through a window behind her. "Beautiful little angel," read one comment.

Olivia was one of 20 students who died in Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. She is survived by her parents, Brian and Shannon Engel, and her 3-year-old brother, Brayden.

Her parents and other family members declined requests for interviews over the weekend, but Brian Engel released a statement about his daughter.

Olivia's favorite colors were pink and purple, he said. Her favorite stuffed animal was a lamb. She loved school and did well in math and reading. She liked to draw and took art classes. She played tennis and soccer and liked musical theater. Olivia was a Daisy in the Girl Scouts, enjoyed swimming and took dance lessons in ballet and hip-hop. She was an active member of her family's church, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, where she was supposed to appear in a Nativity play Saturday night. She was supposed to play the part of an angel. Every night, she led grace at her family's dinner table.

"She was insightful for her age and had a great sense of humor," the family statement said. "She was a grateful child who was always appreciative and never greedy. . . . She was a 6-year-old who had a lot to look forward to."

On Saturday, family friends created a memorial page on Facebook in Olivia's memory and set up a fund so people could make donations to the Engel family. Well wishes from friends and strangers, as well as numerous photographs, made the rounds on the social-networking site.

Family pictures are a tradition for the Engel family, who at least twice this year met with photographer Tim Nosenzo for portraits. Over the summer they gathered at the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club in Westport, Conn., where the family posed for photos along the shore and on a boat. "Always a nice way to spend a summer morning," Nosenzo wrote on his professional Web site, where he posted the images last month.

In November, Nosenzo photographed the family again — this time for what Nosenzo described as "our annual Christmas card photo shoot" in Tarrywile Park in Danbury, Connecticut.

"This is a tragedy beyond understanding," Nosenzo wrote on his website Saturday.

- By Maggie Fazeli Fard


Washington Post researchers Julie Tate, Alice R. Crites and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to these profiles. Other profiles will follow.