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Portraits of Connecticut school shooting victims emerge

12/15/2012 11:54 EST | Updated 02/14/2013 05:12 EST
Police released the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting on Saturday, underscoring the human faces behind the second-deadliest mass shooting in American history.

On Friday, 26 people were killed when a lone gunman entered the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and opened fire. Twenty of the victims were children. Seven more adults were killed before the gunman, who police say is a 20-year-old named Adam Lanza, turned the gun on himself.

Early Saturday, Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut state police released the list of victims. They are:

Canadian connection

At least one of the victims had Canadian ties. Musician Jimmy Greene moved his family — including two school-age children, nine-year-old Isaiah and six-year-old Ana Marquez Greene — from Winnipeg to Newtown, Conn., in July.

The family had moved because the girl's mother had been hired to teach at a local university.

Police confirmed on Saturday that Ana was among the dead. Isaiah was at the school during the shooting Friday but was not injured.

Whyte Ridge Baptist Church, a Winnipeg church that the family used to attend, held a vigil to honour Ana's life on Friday evening.

Terry Janke, the church's senior pastor, told CBC News that Greene confirmed Ana's death to a congregation member.

"Through these times it rocks anybody's world, losing a child, and so we're holding ourselves up in grief but holding them up that their faith be unshakable," Janke said.

'Nobody knows how to get through this,' says victim's dad

Six-year-old Emilie Parker was among the 20 children killed in the massacre. Emilie and her family — mom, dad, and three- and four-year-old siblings —had moved to Newtown eight months prior, her father, Robbie Parker, told reporters Saturday.

“She was the type of person that could just light up a room. She always had something kind to say about anybody," said Parker, tearing up. "She is an incredible person and I’m so blessed to be her dad."

Parker said he was at work when the shooting happened. His wife called him and told him the news.

At first, he thought this couldn't be happening and it must be a mistake, said the 30-year-old physician's assistant.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how to get through something like this," he said, adding he has found strength in religion and family support.

He said he hopes all the families affected use the resources made available to them "since nobody knows how to get through this."

Teacher died shielding students

Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher at the school, is now being called a hero.

Details of her death remain fuzzy, but investigators informed relatives that she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, her cousin Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.

"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."

Her goal was simply to be a teacher. "She lost her life doing what she loved," Wiltsie said.

'Teacher's pet, the line leader,' says family friend

The images of Olivia Engel show the life of a six-year-old girl: visiting Santa Claus, feasting on a slice of birthday cake, or swinging a pink baseball bat.

"She loved attention," said Dan Merton, a longtime friend of her family. "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 six-year-old."

Principal, school psychologist lunged at gunman

Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, regularly tweeted photos from her time at the school. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert. Days before that, it was 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 the school a place of safety, too, and in October, Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "Safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend her school.

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

The school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, joined principal Hochsprung in running toward the gunman and was also killed.

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

Her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Sherlach relished helping children overcome their problems. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance.

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

1st year as full-time teacher

Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30, was thrilled when she became a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook this fall, after she had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs.

Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.

"Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," she said. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."

Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job. "It was the best year of her life," she told the paper.

'You don't expect your daughter to be murdered'

Anne Marie Murphy, a 52-year-old teacher, is remembered by her parents as a happy soul; a good mother, wife and daughter; artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking. Remembering their daughter, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer local paper 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."

7-year-old recently won his 1st triathlon

Chase Kowalski, 7, was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbour Kevin Grimes, telling him about competing in — and winning — his first mini-triathlon.

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

Gunman reportedly killed mother at home before shooting spree

Fifty-two-year-old Nancy Lanza, the suspected gunman's mother, was known simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house.

Kingston, New Hampshire, Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said Nancy Lanza once lived in the community and was a kind, considerate and loving person. The former stockbroker at John Hancock in Boston was well-respected, Briggs said.

Victim's family asks for prayers

A family friend at the house of six-year-old victim Catherine Hubbard turned reporters away, 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."

Doctor tends to grieving family

Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at the house of six-year-old victim Madeleine Hsu on Saturday, tending to her stricken family, who he said 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.

List of victims (birth dates included):

- Bacon, Charlotte, 02/22/06, girl.

- Barden, Daniel, 09/25/05, boy.

- Davino, Rachel, 07/17/83, woman.

- Engel, Olivia, 07/18/06, girl.

- Gay, Josephine, 12/11/05, girl.

- Marquez-Greene, Ana, 04/04/06, girl.

- Hockley, Dylan, 03/08/06, boy.

- Hocksprung, Dawn, 06/28/65, woman.

- Hsu, Madeleine F, 07/10/06, girl.

- Hubbard, Catherine V, 06/08/06, girl.

- Kowalski, Chase, 10/31/05, boy.

- Lewis, Jesse, 06/30/06, boy.

- Mattioli, James, 03/22/06, boy.

- McDonnell, Grace, 11/04/05, girl.

- Murphy, Anne Marie, 07/25/60, adult.

- Parker, Emilie, 05/12/06, girl.

- Pinto, Jack, 05/06/06, boy.

- Pozner, Noah, 11/20/06, boy.

- Previdi, Caroline, 09/07/06, girl.

- Rekos, Jessica, 05/10/06, girl.

- Richman, Avielle, 10/17/06, girl.

- Russeau, Lauren, 06/0??82, woman.

- Sherlach, Mary, 02/11/56, woman.

- Soto, Victoria, 11/04/85, woman.

- Wheeler, Benjamin, 09/12/06, boy.

- Wyatt, Allison, 07/03/06, girl

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