A 23-year-old Kentucky woman visiting Boston to celebrate the birthday of her great-aunt was shot and killed as she left a Dorchester party early yesterday morning, spurring calls from city officials to put an end to late-night parties, where violence often breaks out.
The woman, whom a Kentucky neighbor identified as Chiara Levin, was raised in Danville, Ky., a town of about 15,000, and traveled extensively, living in France before taking a job at a New York public relations firm. The valedictorian of her high school, she graduated last year from the University of Michigan, said the neighbor, Alice Davis, who said she spoke with Levin’s mother yesterday.
“She was gorgeous, talented, with curly brown hair,” Davis said. “This is the worst possible news that any parent can get. We are just devastated here in Danville.”
Two other people were injured as they left the party at about 4 a.m. yesterday, said police, who provided no further information about those victims.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed yesterday to end after-hours house parties.
“It’s crazy. It’s nuts,” he said. “We know all those parties bring bad events in our city. They always end up in some kind of violence.”
Police did not release the victim’s identity last night. Menino said he did not know why she was in Boston.
“She came in one night, overnight,” Menino said. “She had only been in the city a few hours. Who she was with, where she was going - that’s the question that’s being researched now by the police department.”
City police officers cordoned off the front door of the three-decker house on Geneva Avenue where the shooting occurred, stringing yellow tape across the porch. Ballistic evidence was recovered at the scene. Neighbors said they heard at least five shots.
Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis visited the scene yesterday afternoon for about an hour and said many people have cooperated with police.
“We do have several witnesses who are talking to us at this point in time, and we hope to be able to provide you with initial information later today,” he said. “A woman was shot, she was killed [and], there were other people injured, but as to the extent of their injuries and specifically what they are, it’s too early to comment.” Davis did not say whether police had any suspects. Davis said the people with the victim did not immediately seek medical help but eventually drove her to Boston Medical Center, where police were called. He declined to say why the people failed to get immediate help.
“We’re looking at all sorts of possibilities in this investigation right now,” Davis said. “Certainly everybody who was involved in this incident right now is being questioned.”
It was unclear yesterday whether the woman was the intended target.
News of the woman’s death spread quickly around Danville, where Levin was in the French Club and a member of the National Honor Society at Danville High School.
“She is an outstanding student,” Principal Win Smith said. “We’re a smaller independent school. She was one of those that stood out. She was opinionated, she could discuss any subject.”
In the school’s production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Levin played the role of Mrs. Gloop, the mother of the spoiled, overweight Augustus Gloop.
“She’s very funny and lively, a very smart kid,” said Steve Meadows, her English teacher. “Just a good kid from a good family.”
Levin’s father is an art history professor at Centre College in Kentucky and her mother is an Italian immigrant from Florence, where the family visited often. Levin’s mother left for Boston yesterday, according to Davis, the family’s neighbor.
Fluent in Italian and Latin, as well as French, she was accepted at Wellesley College and the University of Michigan but chose Michigan because she wanted to attend a large school, said one of her teachers, Angela Johnson, former principal at the high school. She had already taken college courses at Centre College.
“She could have gone anywhere she wanted to go,” Johnson said. “She was absolutely outstanding ... . There’s nothing bad I can say about her. I called her `baby doll’ because she looked like a Barbie doll to me.”
The house director at Chi Omega, a sorority at the University of Michigan, said Levin lived at the sorority house for about two years. The director did not identify herself.
“I never had a girl who I loved more than I did Chiara,” she said, sobbing.
Davis, the neighbor, said Levin traveled to Boston for a celebration but she did not know where her great-aunt lives.
“She was there to take part in a family celebration,” Davis said. “Her great-aunt was celebrating a birthday, and she went to represent the family since her father couldn’t make it.”
Commissioner Davis did not answer a question about who police believe was the target.
Menino expressed frustration that the shooting occurred on Geneva Avenue, where police recently deployed more officers to walk the streets as part of a focused community policing effort. He vowed for a quick conclusion to the case.
“The commissioner is meeting with all his detectives right now, pushing this case real hard,” he said.
House parties have been a chronic problem for police in Boston. In November, 18-year-old Jonathan Jacques was slain outside of a widely promoted house party on Milton Avenue in Dorchester.
Davis said the department has been successful at shutting parties down when they attract hundreds of people and a great deal of noise. But he said smaller parties, such as the one where the Michigan woman was killed early yesterday, are harder to quash.
“The smaller ones are a little more difficult for us to recognize,” Davis said.
Neighbors said the house has been a problem for some time.
“I know they do after-hours parties there on the weekend,” said Jocelyn Arroyo, who lives next door to the party house. “A couple of times they’ve rung my bell looking for the party.”
Arroyo, 40, said she and her 13-year-old daughter, Angelyn, heard the gunshots and yelling.
“I heard five shots and people screaming and stuff,” Angelyn said. “I got scared.”
Another neighbor, Hoang Nguyen, said he heard one shot followed by a pause of a couple of minutes, and then a rapid succession of four or five more shots.
Nguyen pointed to a bullet hole about the size of a nickel that pierced the back of his maroon Nissan Pathfinder, which was parked in front of the party.
“My God,” Johnson said. “I cannot believe this. I watched her grow up.”