The father of a first-grade girl killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was discovered dead in an apparent suicide Monday morning at a town hall in Connecticut, police said.
Authorities said the body of Jeremy Richman, 49, was found at about 7 a.m. at Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, a Connecticut community that has been scarred by the tragic school shooting that left 20 students and six staff members dead. The victims included Richman’s daughter, 6-year-old Avielle Richman.
Richman, a neuroscientist who founded the Avielle Foundation in his daughter’s name, studied the brain and violence. The foundation had an office at the town hall.
Police did not say how Richman died or what may have led to his death. But Lt. Aaron Bahamonde, a spokesman for the Newtown Police Department, told The Washington Post that Richman’s death “puts Newtown back into the spotlight again.”
“We certainly recognize the heartbreak that this is causing,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a difficult situation that we’re all dealing with here and it’s a sad situation.”
Following reports that Richman had died, government officials and friends expressed their grief and offered condolences to the family.
Newtown First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal said there were “no words to describe the tragic weight of today’s news.”
“Jeremy Richman was a loving husband, father and friend to many. I am proud to say he was my friend,” Rosenthal said in a statement Monday to the Hartford Courant. “I don’t want to speculate as to why Jeremy took his life, except to say none of us can fathom the enormity of loss he carried with him after the death of his beautiful daughter, Avielle.”
More than 1,300 miles away in Parkland, Fla., two teenagers have died by apparent suicide in the past week in a town still grieving from the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities have not drawn a connection to the apparent suicide in Newtown. One former student who died was apparently dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder from the shooting, but circumstances surrounding the second student’s death remain unclear.
Richman’s daughter Avielle and 19 of her classmates were killed Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Soon after, Richman and Avielle’s mother, Jennifer Hensel, both scientists, founded the Avielle Foundation: Preventing Violence & Building Compassion, a nonprofit that aims to prevent violence through brain research.
The foundation said in a statement Monday that Richman’s death "speaks to how insidious and formidable a challenge brain health can be and how critical it is for all of us to seek help for ourselves, our loved ones and anyone who we suspect may be in need.”
According to his biography on the organization’s website, Richman was a neuropharmacologist, studying how drugs influence the brain and nervous system.
While his roots are in neuroscience, his research experience has spanned the range from neuroscience to cardiovascular biology, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, immunology and inflammation, and kidney disease. Jeremy is passionate about helping people live happier and healthier lives and is dedicated to engaging and educating youth, believing that our future relies on their imaginations. This is manifest in his teaching martial arts, biology, neuroscience, and rock climbing to children and teens for the past 25 years. Most importantly, he believes it is critical to empower youth to advocate for themselves and their peers when it comes to brain health and brain illnesses. Following the murder of his six year old daughter, Avielle, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Murders, Dr. Richman and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, started the Avielle Foundation, committed to preventing violence and building compassion through brain health research, community engagement, and education.
Richman told WTNH that the pain never ended.
“Losing Avielle hurt then and hurts now,” Richman told WTNH. “There’s no words that really describe the loss and the feeling of emptiness and missing her profoundly that never goes away and is there every waking moment.”
Police have not released details about his death.
To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging 741741.