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ICYMI: Milford Residents Grapple With Violence: 'Our Hearts Are Broken'

Three separate violent acts stun the small city

Maren Sanchez in the prom dress she had purchased
Maren Sanchez in the prom dress she had purchased

Milford's motto is the small city with a big heart, and recently that heart has been tested again and again. 

It all began on April 25 when Christopher Plaskson, 16, allegedly stabbed to death Jonathan Law Junior Class and prom planner President Maren Sanchez, 16, in a secluded hallway at the school. 

Reports are Plaskon allegedly stabbed Sanchez because she rejected his last minute offer to attend the prom with him. Sanchez, who spent months planning the junior class prom, was killed on the very day it was supposed to happen. 

Just as the small tight-knit city of about 52,000 residents was beginning to heal from the trauma inflicted during the Sanchez tragedy, the city erupted in violence again this week. 

On early Tuesday, three people were injured in a stabbing incident on Lafayette Street. Then the very next day, there was a murder suicide on Midway Avenue where Michael Savignanao, 56, of Shelton, was gunned down and the suspected shooter, Vincent Edwards, 46, took his own life, but not before he opened fire on Milford police officers from the roof of his house. Fortunately, no police officer was hurt. 

The violence is unprecedented for the sleepy shoreline community, which averages about one homicide every few years. Police typically respond to domestics, larcenies and disorderly conducts. 

And it’s clear the community has been shaken. One Milford Patch reader wrote, “Unfortunately, now time to leave this city, for my family's protection.” 

That is just one comment, but several residents have noted they are quite aware of the three recent violent acts committed on the normally sleepy beach front community. 

Sanchez tragedy 

In the days and weeks that followed, the Milford community was in shock and tried to make sense of the senseless tragedy. 

“We’re a family, our heart is broken,” said Fran Thompson, who is Jonathan Law’s principal. Thompson’s comments were made shortly after Sanchez’s death. 

But in the days and weeks that followed the tragedy, the Milford community began to come together. There was a citywide vigil in which more than 2,000 people attended to celebrate Maren’s life. 

Then more than 1,000 people attended Sanchez’s wake as the community continued to heal and city businesses lined up to offer assistance to Jonathan Law students. 

“I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of our kids as they work through this horrible experience,” Thompson said about a week after Sanchez’s death. 

“The outpouring of community support has been incredible – I keep hearing, “Stay strong.” and that is exactly what the generosity and love of everyone is allowing us to do. Of course, there will be great challenges that lie ahead and the many stages of grief that must come and will come,” Thompson said in the days following the tragedy. “We will get through them as a community the same way we made it through this week.”

It was Thompson who coined the phrase “Milford Strong,” which became apart of the regular vocabulary for city residents. 

The lasting effects of the Sanchez tragedy could still be seen on many people. About a month after Maren was killed, Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser broke down several times recounting the strength of the Milford community. 

Feser said on April 25 “our hearts were broken.”

“We continue to grieve as a community, we grow stronger as a community,” Feser said.

She added that the outpouring of support has been immense.

Feser went on to list numerous groups, agencies and businesses that have rallied around the Milford community to help it heal.

As Feser began to thank all the parents and students for their prayers and specifically the Law students, staff and parents she became emotional.

“I thank them for their courage,” Feser said, while becoming choked up. “There is no road map for this.”

She thanked everyone for the “extraordinary care” shown to the Law and Sanchez family.

“It’s humbling and it’s made the Milford community even stronger,” Feser said. “Thank-you, we’ve got a long way to go. We have enormous strength.”

Milford Mayor Benjamin G. Blake described Sanchez as someone who had a deep devotion and passion for life.

“Maren loved everyone and everyone loved her,” Blake said. “We cannot undo what happened.”

Blake said it’s appropriate to mourn Sanchez’s death but everyone must be unified in their resolve.

“We will get through this together,” Blake said.

While the city’s resolve has been tested, there is no doubt from Milford’s leaders that the only way to overcome the recent spate of tragedy is by coming together. 

Carol King June 09, 2014 at 06:59 AM
what does ICYMI stand for?
tlkensington June 09, 2014 at 07:59 AM
In case you missed it. Kinda funnier now that you missed that. Milford isn't any more violent. If you look at long term trends then you will see that Milford isn't any more violent. If you take a 2 month slice of this year then yes you would see a murder rate that rivals Bridgeport for this year so far. If you look long term then you will see that there are violent crimes in Milford. Just not many. Milford has its share of problems, but violent crime isn't one of them...yet. Now if we keep seeing these events then maybe we do.
Johnny June 09, 2014 at 08:32 AM
To the Milford Patch reader who wrote, “Unfortunately, now time to leave this city, for my family's protection.” Good bye and good riddance. Three isolated events that were each not random and only involving people who knew each other is no cause for overreacting. These weren't drive by shootings at random residents.
C.S. June 09, 2014 at 05:54 PM
Milford is one of the best and safest cities around, what happened in these tragic events were both isolated events. Anyone who feels the need to leave, well, don't let the door hit you on your ass on the way out. Good riddance, God Bless the Sanchez family, and God Bless all the good people of the great city of Milford.
Mary June 09, 2014 at 06:51 PM
As a lifelong resident of Milford I can tell you Milford is nothing like it use to be.

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