Milford high school student stabbed to death

Looking forward to her junior prom and a bright future

MILFORD -- On the day of her junior prom, a Jonathan Law High School student was stabbed to death in a school hallway Friday morning during an apparent quarrel with a classmate who students said wanted to be her prom date.

Maren Sanchez, 16, an athlete and National Honor Society member, was slashed across the throat, face and chest shortly after 7 a.m., just before classes began, police said.

Teachers frantically attempted to stop the bleeding, an effort that was taken over by the EMS paramedics who soon arrived. But by 7:45 a.m., she was declared dead at Bridgeport Hospital.

For Sanchez, it was supposed to one of the happiest days of her young life -- she had even been elected prom queen.

"She was nice to everyone," said Emily Evans, 14. "You couldn't find a person who didn't know her."

Police said the 16-year-old male who assaulted Sanchez was taken into custody, and they said he was cooperative. Sources told Hearst Connecticut Media that the suspect's name is Chris Plaskon, and he will likely be charged as an adult.

The suspect was transported to Milford Hospital for psychological evaluation Friday and is expected to be arraigned Monday in Juvenile Court in New Haven.

The school was immediately placed on lockdown as worried parents rushed to the school. Classes were dismissed by 9 a.m. so police could investigate the attack.

By 9:30, school staffers said, Jonathan Law High was all but empty except for detectives examining the crime scene.

Students described an emotional scene, with people crying as police and paramedics swarmed the school.

Student Jill Davis, a friend of Sanchez, said Plaskon was an ex-boyfriend of the victim and that he had asked Sanchez to go to the junior prom with him that evening. When "she said no, he slashed her across the throat," Davis said.

On a Facebook page highlighting the school's prom dresses, Sanchez recently posted a photo of her dress, a teal-colored, full length gown with a slit on the side. "Yay ... so excited," she posted with a comment.

Police would not speculate on the prom date report, but said that they are investigating that angle.

"We'll get the bottom of it on how it happened and why," said Police Chief Keith Mello said. "The victim suffered multiple lacerations to her neck, chest and facial areas during the incident."

Detectives said they recovered a knife at the crime scene and executed a search warrant at the suspect's home.

Mello said it's unclear whether any students witnessed the assault, but it's possible that one or more of them saw all or part of the attack.

Student Christina DiCola said, "all I saw before they closed off the hallway was her, all bloody."

Police sources said a teacher held the dying girl in her lap until help arrived.

Sarah Golden, a 14-year-old freshman, said she was sitting in the main lobby with friends Friday morning when she was startled by several security guards running down the hall. Then she heard a voice on a walkie-talkie say someone had been strangled.

She was shocked when she learned about the stabbing.

"I was trying not to freak out because it was really scary," Golden said. "I just don't believe that something like that happened at my school. It's something that seems so unreal."

Golden's sister, Rebecca, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said she saw the victim lying on the floor surrounded by teachers, some of whom were crying. She said she didn't know what was going on at the time, and teachers directed her away from the victim.

Ben Buczek, a senior at Jonathan Law, described Sanchez as a student who "everyone liked," and who was a talented musician on the guitar as well as an accomplished student.

"There was nothing bad about her," he said.

Buczek added that Plaskon never displayed any violent tendencies and he didn't seem like the sort of kid capable of harming anyone.

"I had a class with him, and he seemed like a nice kid," he said. "Weird, but in a funny sort of way. Nothing out of the ordinary and you wouldn't think he could do this."

Students said Sanchez and Plaskon had been friends since they were in middle school.

Some students held a vigil Friday afternoon at Walnut Beach, where they brought Sanchez's teal green prom dress as a way to remember her. Many of the girls wore their prom dresses, and the boys wore their tuxedos.

Students also gathered around a large boulder at the entrance to the school parking lot. The rock was painted purple with "Maren" in white letters.

Elizabeth Feser, Milford superintendent of schools, said Sanchez was a "vibrant" student who excelled academically, was manager of the swim team and was "loved and respected" by her peers.

"We are obviously devastated by the loss of our students," she said. "She was very, very involved in Jonathan Law High, and she was an incredible contributor to the school."

Mello echoed Feser's despair over Sanchez's death.

"Any time there's a death, it's tragic, especially when it's a young person," he said.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., offered her condolences.

"My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends as they deal with this terrible heartbreak," she said in a message to the media.

Mayor Benjamin Blake, who was away on vacation, also said he was shocked by the news.

"Our hearts go out to the family of Maren Sanchez, the 16-year-old junior at Jonathan Law High School who passed away this morning, and to those also affected by this tragedy," the mayor said in a message to the media.

Blake announced counseling services will be available throughout the weekend and he urged members of the school community and others to take advantage of them.

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, was at the scene to offer her condolences.

"This is a terrible day here in Milford," she said. "We are all heartbroken. I spoke with the governor, and I can tell you that he stands ready with any and all resources that the state can offer to help us heal and to deal with this tragedy."

The school's junior prom had been scheduled for Friday night at Vazzano's Four Seasons banquet hall in Stratford.

Feser said, because of the tragedy, the junior prom and post-prom activities were postponed indefinitely. Feser said the prom would indeed take place at a future date.

Before the 11:30 a.m. news conference by police and school officials, many students were holding hands and crying.

The news conference took place in the K-Mart parking lot, about a block away from the school. By 3 p.m., the side streets adjacent to the school were crowded with news vans as television reporters prepared for live feeds for their evening news shows, using the high school as a backdrop.

Police and school officials stressed it was an isolated incident between two students and that the school was -- and is -- a safe place for children.

Mello said Plaskon has been charged with murder as a juvenile offender.

"The Milford Superior Court will follow up with a determination if the case will be handled as a juvenile or adult proceeding," Mello said.

Jonathan Law Principal Fran Thompson sent an email to students Friday morning expressing her shock and sadness.

It read: "It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that a beloved member of our student body, Maren Sanchez, has passed away. Maren was everything right with Jonathan Law. An honor student, active member of our school community and incredible young woman, her time with us was much too short but her spirit will be with us forever."

"We will have counselors and staff on hand throughout the entire weekend," Thompson said. "Anyone -- students, staff, alumni and community members are welcome to join us for support. The new gym will be open and I ask everyone who joins us to enter through the back lot into the new gym entrance."

Staff writers Amanda Cuda and Daniel Tepfer, and digital news editor Jim Shay contributed to this report.