Maren Sanchez family files lawsuit against school board and Plaskon’s parents
The estate of Maren Sanchez, the 16-year-old high school student who was murdered in the halls of Jonathan Law High School last April by a fellow student, has brought a lawsuit against the city of Milford Board of Education and the city of Milford as well as against Christopher Plaskon and his parents, David and Kathleen Plaskon, according to a statement released by the attorney of Maren’s mother.
“The lawsuit alleges that Maren reported to the high school guidance department her concern that Christopher Plaskon was emotionally disturbed and was threatening to commit suicide or acts of serious self-harm by cutting himself with a knife and that she believed it was important for high school personnel to help Christopher Plaskon to prevent him from engaging in potentially violent conduct dangerous to himself or to others,” the statement reads.
According to the lawsuit, Plaskon’s guidance counselor failed to advise the school principal, school security or others in the school administration or the Connecticut Department of Children and Families of Maren’s report, in violation of mandatory school policies and state law.
The lawsuit further alleges that Christopher Plaskon’s parents, David and Kathleen Plaskon, were aware that their son was engaging in self-destructive conduct with knives that was potentially dangerous to himself and others and failed to obtain proper medical treatment for him or to prevent him from having access to knives, the statement reads.
According to the lawsuit, Christopher Plaskon was absent from school for a week after Maren’s report about him to the school guidance counselor and then returned to school and continued to engage in self-destructive behavior, including cutting himself with a knife, and began bringing a knife to school with him.
Plaskon, who is currently incarcerated at Manson Youth Institution, pleaded no contest to the murder of Maren Sanchez on March 7, 2016, and is to be sentenced on June 6, 2016. Court proceedings on March 7, 2016, indicated that he will receive a sentence of 25 years’ incarceration at that time.
Donna Cimarelli-Sanchez, Maren’s mother and the administratrix of her estate, said in a statement about the lawsuit, “We feel there was an opportunity here for the school system and Plaskon’s parents to intervene to prevent Maren’s death from happening. We’re bringing this lawsuit to make sure that reports like the one Maren made are properly handled and that parents and school personnel will respond to protect minor children from terrible injury and death.”
David S. Golub of the Stamford law firm of Silver Golub & Teitell, attorneys for the estate, stated, “We waited until the conclusion of the criminal case against Christopher Plaskon to bring this action so that the criminal proceedings would not be affected by the civil case. But we feel that this case involves important issues about the responsibility of a school system to respond to reports of potential student violence and to protect its students from harm from other students and the responsibility of parents to take affirmative steps to prevent their child from engaging in destructive behavior.”
The estate’s lawsuit will be heard in Connecticut Superior Court at Milford.
Statement from attorney for Maren’s father
Anthony Bonadies, attorney for Maren’s father, Jose Sanchez, also issued a statement.
“The lawsuit spells out the mistakes made by those who had the duty and power to prevent Maren’s senseless death,” the statement reads. “Most notably, the count against the Milford Board of Education explains how the school disregarded its own policies and procedures that are intended to safeguard the student body and Maren specifically.
“As a result, Maren was robbed of her adolescence and her entire adult life. Her death is a profound loss to her family and to those who knew and loved her.”
Nolo contendere plea
Plaskon entered a plea of nolo contendere at Milford Superior Court March 7.
Under a no-contest plea, the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the act, but agrees to accept the punishment.
Plaskon is due to return to court June 6, when he is scheduled to be sentenced to 25 years in prison. The maximum sentence for murder in Connecticut is 60 years, Judge John Ronan said during court proceedings.
With the plea, Plaskon’s attorney said, he could be paroled and out of jail in 13 years.
Plaskon originally entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of murder, and his lawyers previously said they expected the plea would be based on one of three forms of an insanity defense.
After court March 7, Plaskon’s attorney, Edward Gavin, explained that under the plea agreement, Plaskon receives the minimum sentence and remains under the jurisdiction of the corrections department. If he had been proven not guilty by reason of insanity, a psychiatric review board would have maintained jurisdiction over him and could have maintained custody for an indeterminate amount of time. With the plea, because of Plaskon’s age, he could be eligible for parole in 15 years — 13 when counting the two years he has already served at the Manson Youth Institute in Cheshire, Gavin said.
Gavin said Plaskon will likely remain at the Manson Youth Institute until he is 21 or 22 and then be transferred to an adult facility.
Sources said Plaskon stabbed Maren in a stairwell at Jonathan Law High School on the morning of April 25, 2014, because she was not going to the prom with him. There have been subsequent reports that Plaskon heard voices, and that he had been struggling with mental health issues.
Also, according to documents, a friend told police that Plaskon had implied he wanted to hurt Maren because he wanted to be more than just friends with her and he wanted to take her to the prom, but she was seeing someone else.
According to the friend, Plaskon said he “wouldn’t mind if [Maren] was dead or hit by a bus.”
However, attorney Gavin countered those allegations outside the courtroom Monday, saying that Plaskon was psychotic at the time of the murder and that the act didn’t have any connection to the prom.
“It really has nothing to do with this,” Gavin said.
State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor disagreed that the prom had nothing to do with Plaskon’s actions, saying that he would have presented evidence in a trial that a number of sources told investigators that Plaskon was upset because Maren was not attending the prom with him.
Plaskon’s parents told police during the investigation that their son had a “significant history dealing with mental health issues as a child.” He was treated on and off for several years, court documents state.
Plaskon’s parents also said their son had mood swings and possibly depression several months preceding the murder, documents state.
Lawlor said part of the reason for the plea agreement, as opposed to pursuing trial, was the fact that court cases have been leaning toward more leniency to youthful offenders. That suggested to Lawlor that Plaskon would not have been sentenced at the maximum level if the case had gone to trial.
“This is an appropriate resolution based on legal and moral factors,” Lawlor said.
He said the plea was a compromise, and he believed that neither the Plaskon family nor the Sanchez family is completely satisfied with the sentence.