Students at two South Land Park schools on Monday met with psychologists and social workers in search of ways to process their grief over the loss of classmates killed in a horrific quadruple homicide, principals said.
Principals Enrique Flores of Sam Brannan Middle School and Samantha Holmes of John Cabrillo Elementary School said crisis teams from the Sacramento City Unified School District were at the campuses Monday to ensure that any student in need of emotional support would have a place to turn. It was the second day for counselors at Brannan, where word had spread on Friday that student Mia Vasquez, 14, had been killed.
Last Thursday, Sacramento police were called to a home blocks away from the two schools in South Land Park to check on the residents. Inside, they found the bodies of Angelique Vasquez, 45, her daughter Mia, son Alvin Vasquez, 11, and Vasquez’s niece, Ashley Coleman, 21.
Salvador Vasquez-Oliva, 56, is being held in a Sacramento jail with no bail, accused of their slayings. He is due for court arraignment on Monday.
Both Flores and Holmes described the students as well-liked and polite. Mia was in eighth grade at Brannan, which has 550 students. Alvin was in the fifth grade at Cabrillo, which has 400 students.
Both said the experience has been difficult for their classmates.
“Many go into the wellness center to talk to the mental health professionals,” Flores said. “They just want assurances that you’re there and that we’re moving forward. For the most part, they just look at you and give you a smile that they’re going to be okay.”
He said health professionals offer ways to help students process their grief, including drawing exercises.
In addition, Holmes said, “Our school psychologist went in and spoke directly with Alvin’s class this morning.”
Flores said because the deaths were felt well beyond the campus, recent days “have been just a madhouse” trying to help those “in and around the school and our community.”
“Honestly, I haven’t had a moment to reflect on it and mourn, when I’d like to do that,” he said. “It will hit me sometime next week, when I think that the school is doing okay.”
Flores said Mia attended Brannan for the last nine months. She was goalie on the Brannan soccer team.
“She is very liked by her friends on her team,” he said. “She was very polite and went about her business on a daily basis with genuine concern for others.”
Holmes described Alvin as “your typical, average fifth grade boy. He was well liked. He loved to play basketball. He was very polite. And his parents were always very supportive.”
Alvin had been a student at Cabrillo since third grade, she said. The district said he recently transferred to nearby Sutterville Elementary School, where grief counselors were also available Monday.
Over the weekend, a memorial of candles and stuffed animals grew on the front lawn of the Vasquez home in the 1100 block of 35th Avenue. Dozens of people held an emotional weekend vigil nearby.
Holmes said the school is doing what it can to “make sure that we’re here to support the staff, students and the community.”
Both principals said they wanted to extend their condolences to family members of all the victims.