The father of a six-year-old girl killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was discovered dead in an apparent suicide Monday morning at a town hall in Connecticut, police said.
Jeremy Richman was a neuropharmacologist who co-founded the Avielle Foundation with his wife Jennifer Hensel. Following the death of their daughter Avielle, their mission was to determine the relationship between the brain and violence.
Our Kids: Our Business, a Spokane network of agencies, businesses and people working to prevent child abuse and neglect, brought Richman to Gonzaga University to speak last April to help the community cope with the Freeman High School shooting.
Dena Chappell, who was co-chair of Our Kids: Our Business when Richman was brought in, recalled him as a “nurturing soul.”
“You could read his passion,” Chappell said. “He was passionate about making a change right now when it comes to violence.”
Instead of a ribbon, the Our Kids: Our Business logo is a pinwheel, meant to symbolize the innocence of childhood. Chappell said that Richman was so impressed with the organization and the work in Spokane that he brought home a pinwheel and left it at his daughter’s gravesite, sending the organization a picture.
Leaders at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center were so impressed with his talk that they had arranged for Richman to return to Spokane April 10-11. The April 10 event is cancelled; the April 11 event will still be held, though Richman had been tabbed to be the keynote speaker.
Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said Richman affected everyone who attended the event last year.
“His message was so profound, and just such an authentic human being,” Schaeffer said. “I think I really related with him and with his message, and we were very inspired as a community.”
A friend called Schaeffer this morning with the news of Richman’s death. Schaeffer expressed concern for Richman’s family and the tight-knit community of family and survivors of mass shootings – a community Schaeffer said is unfortunately growing larger.
“This is the last thing I ever would have imagined occurring to him and his family,” Schaeffer said.
Richman’s daughter and 19 classmates were killed Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Six adult staff members also were fatally shot.
Chappell said that Richman had strong science behind his work, but when he spoke of it, he always made the message easy to understand.
“We lost a bright star, but we all just know that we have to keep doing his work,” Chappell said.
Lindsey Bever, of the Washington Post, contributed to this report.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.