04:34 AM EDT 10/16/2013
Originally posted 07/14/2013 02:55PM
Erica Lafferty, the youngest daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in December's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., recently marked a joyous occasion.
On July 6, she married fiancé Christopher Smegielski, at her mother's lake house in the Adirondacks.
That morning, , Lafferty, 27, paid a visit to her mother's grave. And she wore her wedding dress.
"I wanted to let her know how much I missed her," Lafferty says. "No daughter should ever have to do that on her wedding day … and I make sure she is always part of every day, like she always had been."
Originally posted 07/12/2013 08:00AM
A community foundation given the task to divide up donations received after the Connecticut school shootings made preliminary recommendations on $7.7 million that call for giving $281,000 to each of the families of the 26 children and school educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year.
The families of 12 surviving children who witnessed the Dec. 14 shootings would each get $20,000; two teachers who were injured would get $150,000 between them.
The foundation was asked to divide up $11.4 million that was raised with the help of the United Way. The foundation previously decided to divvy up $7.7 million to the families and survivors and to have committees decide on uses for the remainder of the donations, including whether to use some of it for future mental health care and other needs.
Originally posted 06/04/2013 12:25PM
A judge on Tuesday accepted James Holmes's plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, setting the stage for a lengthy mental evaluation of the Colorado theater-shooting suspect.
Holmes is accused of opening fire in a packed Denver-area movie theater last summer, killing 12 people and injuring 70. He is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
The mental evaluation could take months.
Holmes's lawyers repeatedly have said he is mentally ill, but they delayed the insanity plea while arguing state laws were unconstitutional. They said the laws could hobble the defense if Holmes's case should ever reach the phase where the jury decides if he should be executed.
Originally posted 03/03/2013 11:00AM
Initially it was Lauren Rousseau's smile that caught Tony Lusardi III's attention on a dating website. He sent her a jokey message, she sent a "ha-ha-ha" back, and a month later they had their first date at a wine bar.
"We hit it off right off the bat," says Lusardi, 30, a sales rep for a tech company. "I am a giant, awkward nerd when I first meet people, but at one point I said, 'Can I kiss you?' " Rousseau, 30, a substitute elementary school teacher, turned red and said, "Yes." When their lips locked, says Lusardi, "I knew she was perfect for me. I thought, 'She's the one.' "
About five weeks later, they made it Facebook official: They were "in a relationship." Young, smitten and feeling they had all the time in the world, 13 months later they were just beginning to hatch plans to move out of their respective parents' homes. "We were thinking we would move in together, get a dachshund – we wanted to name it Pork Chop – and see what happened."
Originally posted 12/18/2012 08:15AM
As students in Newtown returned to class Tuesday, James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos were laid to rest.
"Heaven gained an angel today," read a sign outside the funeral procession for Mattioli, 6, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings Friday.
As the vehicle carrying his casket arrived at the St. John's Cemetery in Darien, Conn., after the noon funeral service at Saint Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, onlookers wiped away tears as the entire community continued to cope with what amounts to unbearable grief.
Earlier in the day, for a 10 a.m. service, the casket for Rekos, also 6, was also carried into Saint Rose of Lima Church prior to her burial at St. Rose cemetery.
Originally posted 12/18/2012 02:30PM
Even as some sort of routine is being reestablished in Newtown, Conn., after the horrific events of Dec. 14, help for those directly involved is being offered from far and wide.
Counseling services are available through Friday, according to the Newtown Public School District website. Those in need can also call 211.
"We are grateful for all the prayers, thoughts and outpouring of support offered to our community during this difficult time," reads the school district's message.
Originally posted 12/18/2012 11:30AM
As divorces go, the one between Peter and Nancy Lanza appeared to be as amicable as possible under the circumstances, with agreement on generous alimony and custody.
But when the Lanzas finalized their split in 2009, they did have concerns about the care of their then-17-year-old son Adam, according to the pair's divorce mediator.
"The only two things I remember them saying is that she really didn't like to leave him alone and I know they went out of their way to accommodate him," their divorce mediator, Paula Levy, tells the Associated Press.
Originally posted 12/17/2012 03:20PM
Friends and family said goodbye on Monday to two of the 27 victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both 6, were the first laid to rest.
"Today is extremely emotional," Noah's aunt, Victoria Haller, tells PEOPLE. "My sister-in-law has been pretty much a wreck, which you can imagine. It's the worst thing in the world to lose a child."
Pozner, a loving boy who was inseparable from his siblings, had his services at Abraham L. Green and Son Funeral Home in Farfield, Conn., with his burial at B'nai Israel Cemetery in Monroe, Conn.
The entrance to the funeral home was adorned with white balloons. A large oak tree across from the home was covered with a sign that says, "Our hearts are with you Noah."
Originally posted 12/17/2012 07:20AM
At an interfaith memorial service in Newton, Conn., for those lost in Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, an emotional President Obama told the grieving audience, "We can't tolerate this anymore," and vowed "in the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds" in "preventing more tragedies like this."
As he told the 1,000 people, including the surviving families, as he spoke on the stark stage of Newtown High School Sunday night, the President said, "I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone. … Across this land of ours, we have wept with you."
And he pledged, "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."
Noting this was the fourth time in his presidency the nation has had to deal with senseless acts of gun violence, the President said it was "the fourth time we've hugged survivors. The fourth time we've consoled the families of victims.
"There have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children. Much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Originally posted 12/16/2012 04:20PM
This year, 26 families – and an innumerable count of mourning loved ones and strangers alike – will spend the holidays in the shadow of a national tragedy.
An anonymous North Carolina donor contributed 26 Christmas trees – one for each of the 20 children and six adults killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday – for a special tribute.
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