Riverhead High School sophomore Amaya Coach knew Danielle Lawrence since the third grade.
On Monday, Amaya broke down in front of a group of about 70 people and told them how much she loved her friend, who was killed the night before in an apparent double-murder suicide.
“She shouldn’t have died the way she did,” Amaya said, after placing a small stuffed teddy bear in the snow.
A vigil held in Danielle’s honor started at Wildwood Acres Pavilion around 8 p.m., where classmates and neighbors gathered and lit candles before walking over to the house where Danielle, her mother, Tanya, 43, and her mother’s boyfriend were all found dead less than 24 hours before. The vigil lasted close to two hours in total; friends spent about an hour at the community center before making the walk to the Lawrence home and later returning to the vigil’s starting place.
According to police, 17-year-old Danielle and her mother were killed by Tanya’s boyfriend, 44-year-old Thomas Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun proceeded to kill himself before police found the three of them dead shortly after midnight on Monday.
Although many in attendance said they didn’t know Danielle well and described her as soft spoken, they shared stories about how they admired how she put other people’s needs ahead of her own and said they wanted to pay their respects.
“She was really quiet but worked hard to get positive messages across to kids,” said Ashleigh Rubino, a classmate and fellow peer advisor for the Riverhead Community Awareness Program, or CAP.
When Riverhead High School freshman Jesse Greenberg learned his neighbor and classmate had died, he felt the need to organize a memorial to honor her life.
He and his friend, fellow ninth-grader Pieter Williams, both agreed holding a candlelight vigil was important because they believed it provided an opportunity for themselves and the community to heal.
Pieter was over Jesse’s house Sunday night and said he felt somewhat guilty because he had heard an argument break out at Danielle’s house before the gun shots. He couldn’t have guessed it would turn fatal.
“I was about 50 feet away,” he said. “I felt it was important to be here in order to pay my respects.”
Pieter read a prayer after the crowd lit candles and Jesse nailed a wooden cross to a tree. Nearby, candles and notes were stuck in the snow.
Classmate Brooke Beier said she’ll miss Danielle’s smile.
“I want to show support for her and her family,” she said about attending the memorial. “She was very kind hearted and always wanted to help others.”