MILFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, classmates and others paid tribute Monday to a slain Connecticut teenager, saying she lived a remarkable life and imploring others to learn from her example.
Malloy called Maren Sanchez a star, saying she was inclusive, kind, talented and giving. He said she accomplished so much in a short period of time and affected so many.
"She was someone who moved people," Malloy said. "If you look at this crowd, you might even imagine she moved mountains."
The 16-year-old was stabbed to death Friday morning inside the high school, just hours before she was to attend her junior prom with her boyfriend.
Malloy spoke at an outdoor vigil at Jonathan Law High School Monday night that featured the release of purple balloons, Sanchez's favorite color, and songs in her memory. Other speakers implored the crowd to live like she did.
"It's just really heartbreaking to see something Iike this happen in your hometown, especially to a place you loved," said Amanda Awwad, 19, of Milford, who graduated from the school two years ago and dropped off flowers at a memorial in front of the school Monday.
The memorial started with a large rock spray-painted purple, with her first name, birth date and a heart painted in white. It grew to include flowers, stuffed animals, balloons, candles and notes. Purple ribbons were tied around trees by the school. People also were dressed in purple as they visited the site.
Police and the suspect's defense attorneys have declined to identify the teen charged with murder, but people who saw him taken into custody said he was Sanchez's friend, Chris Plaskon, who also was a junior.
The case was expected to go before a Juvenile Court judge in New Haven on Monday, but it's not clear whether that happened. Ansonia-Milford State's Attorney Kevin Lawlor, Plaskon's lawyers, and a spokesman for the Chief State's Attorney's Office all said they wouldn't be releasing any information Monday.
Under state law, murder cases involving 16- and 17-year-old defendants are automatically transferred from Juvenile Court to adult Superior Court. It's not clear when that will happen.
One of Plaskon's lawyers, Richard Meehan, said his client is being held in a hospital under psychiatric evaluation.
Sanchez was a member of the National Honor Society who was active in drama and other school activities. Police said they're investigating whether the motive was Sanchez's refusal to be the prom date of the boy who was arrested.
Michael Mele, the school's drama director, said Sanchez was enthusiastic and upbeat with an infectious smile. She was involved in a show "Little Shop of Horrors" that will now open Friday dedicated to her memory.
"She was just was the epitome of a good kid," Mele said. "She's one of those kids you want every kid to be like her."
Rev. Cynthia Knapp, of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, said Sanchez was kind and compassionate to everyone as well as talented and had a contagious laugh. She urged the crowd to honor her memory by responding with forgiveness and compassion.
"Chris was her friend and I'm sure she already has forgiven him," she said. "Give us the courage to do the same."
Collins reported from Hartford, Conn.