Friends gather at beach to remember Conn. high school student killed in stabbing

Friends and fellow students, some in prom dresses and tuxedos, gathered at a Connecticut beach Friday night to remember 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, who died after being attacked and stabbed in a school hallway earlier in the day.

A student at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and local media reports indicated that Sanchez was attacked because she refused to go to the prom with the attacker Friday night. Milford police would not confirm a motive.

The Hartford Courant reported the crowd of about 200 released purple, star shaped balloons and shouted "Love you, Maren," as they floated away.

Senior Cindy Lill told the Courant some students went dressed in formal wear because Sanchez would have wanted them to have fun. The prom, scheduled for Friday night, was postponed after her death.

Sanchez was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after the 7:14 a.m. attack at Bridgeport Hospital despite attempts by teachers and emergency responders to save her life, authorities said.

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    "We'll get the bottom of it, or how it happened or why it happened," Keith Mello, the Milford police chief, said of the attack.

    The suspect, also 16, whose name is being withheld because he's a minor, was subdued by teachers immediately after the attack and is in custody, authorities said. The victim and suspect appeared to be "friends" on Facebook. One student at the school said the victim and the attacker were friendly.

    The school was put on lockdown Friday morning and students were sent home after the stabbing. A former faculty member from the school told that the suspect was arrested.

    Police said that the attack was an isolated incident and no other students were in danger. The school's prom,  scheduled for Friday night, was postponed to an as-yet undetermined date, a school official said.

    There were no immediate plans fpr a memorial service, but students took to social media to promote wearing purple to class on Monday in her memory.

    Sanchez was a member of the National Honor Society and manager of the school's swim team who was heavily involved with community service, particularly causes like underage drinking and veterans' services, school officials said.

    She was also a member of her school's drama club and had been practicing for her May 2 role as the large plant in a production of "Little Shop of Horrors."

    Michael Mele, the drama director at the school, saw Sanchez Thursday night at rehearsals and recalled her excitement over the prom and having just had her nails done.

    "She was talking about plans for a double-date and had such energy," he said, calling her the "epitome of a good student."

    Mele said he felt numb after learning she had died and said he corralled students to support each other. Mele said he hopes that the play will go on in her honor and intends to hold another rehearsal on Monday night.

    "If it's just all of us on stage crying at rehearsal, then that's what it's going to be," he said. "But the theater is a family and I want all of my students to console each other."

    A junior at the school told that a teacher who witnessed the attack said Sanchez was asked to the prom by the attacker inside a stairwell at the school. Sanchez, who has a boyfriend, said no to the date, and the suspect began to strangle her, the student said. He pushed her down a flight of stairs and stabbed her.

    Two male teachers eventually took the suspect to the principal's office until police arrived. The student said she saw the suspect being handcuffed and he "looked angry."

    Edward Kovac, Sanchez's cousin, read a statement from her family late Friday afternoon and called the incident "both shocking and devastating."

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