MILFORD, Conn. — A 16-year-old student was stabbed to death in the hallway of a Connecticut high school Friday morning, the day of the school’s junior prom.
Authorities arrested a 16-year-old male student and charged him as a juvenile with murder, and police said they were looking into reports that a dispute about the prom might have prompted the attack.
The killing occurred around 7:15 a.m., just as the school day was about to begin. Students crammed the halls of Jonathan Law High School, some giddily anticipating donning gowns and tuxedos later that day.
A scream cut the air, and there was momentary confusion as students were hustled into classrooms and told to stay. In one of the halls beneath a stairwell, Maren Sanchez, 16, a well-liked member of the drama club known for her singing voice, lay dying.
She had been stabbed, the authorities said, by another student.
Chief Keith Mello of the Milford Police Department said that officials had not made any rulings on possible motives but that investigators were looking into reports that the victim had declined an invitation to the prom from the suspect, whose name the authorities did not release because he is a minor. The prom was postponed.
“This is a very raw, a very fresh investigation,” Mello said.
Tyler Curtin, 16, a junior at the school who said he had known both Sanchez and the suspected attacker since they were in sixth grade together, said the attacker had been dejected when Sanchez turned down his invitation.
“He liked her for a while,” Curtin said. “She just got a new boyfriend.”
Curtin said he had been in the media center just before the first class of the day at 7:20 a.m. He said the librarian had reported hearing what sounded like someone falling down the stairs, called 911 and told all the students to stay there.
Immediately after the attack, staff members and a police officer assigned to the school subdued the suspect, Mello said.
Some staff members tried to resuscitate Sanchez as students ran for safety, the authorities and witnesses said.
She was pronounced dead at 7:43 a.m. at Bridgeport Hospital.
Edward Kovac, a cousin who acted as a spokesman for the Sanchez family, said more must be done to protect children from violence at school.
“The unprovoked attack on Maren this morning has unfortunately for our family resulted in the permanent loss of Maren Victoria Sanchez, a bright light full of hopes and dreams with her future at her fingertips,” Kovac said.
“Maren should be celebrating at her prom this evening with her friends and classmates,” he said. “Instead we are mourning her death and we are trying as a community to understand the senseless loss of life.”
Among her many roles at the high school, Sanchez had served as class president, manager of the swim and softball teams, and a member of the drama club.
Last year she won the school’s talent show with a rendition of “Home’’ by Phillip Phillips. She was also in the National Honor Society and other service clubs.
“She was the most beautiful person I knew,” Annalyse Rose DeLucca, 16, said. “She had a very big heart. She never let anybody feel left out. Every time I saw her she had a smile on her face.”
The suspect will be formally arraigned in Juvenile Court in New Haven on Monday. A knife was recovered from the scene, the authorities said.
The suspect’s lawyer did not respond to a message seeking comment