Plaskon sentenced to 25 years for killing Maren Sanchez

It took only 33 seconds for Christopher Plaskon to take a life that many people described as promising and inspiring when he stabbed and killed Maren Sanchez in a stairwell at Jonathan Law High School on April 25, 2014.
That 33 seconds demonstrated the violence behind the attack, State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor said in Milford Superior Court Monday, when Plaskon was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing Maren Sanchez on the day of her junior prom.

“Thirty-three seconds he is alone in that secluded stairwell along with Miss Sanchez,” Lawlor said, noting that in that short time he managed to cut the young woman’s throat and inflict multiple stab wounds in what Lawlor described as a “vicious murder” and “barbarous act.”

Friends and family of Christopher Plaskon and Maren Sanchez, who were both 16 on the day of the attack, filled the courtroom Monday morning to witness Plaskon’s sentencing.

Jose Sanchez, Maren’s father, decried the sentence as unfair because it means Plaskon may be eligible for parole in 12 to 13 years.

Sanchez said that while Christopher Plaskon may walk out of prison at the age of 32 or 33 with a college education, “My daughter will not be walking out of her grave.”

He and Maren’s mother, Donna Cimarelli, battled tears throughout the hearing, and they both issued tear-evoking statements when they got a chance to speak.

When Donna Cimarelli was pregnant with Maren, she went through a health scare and feared for her unborn child; when she found out her baby was fine, and a girl, she said she knew Maren would be someone special.

After her divorce, Cimarelli and Maren “became a unit,” Cimarelli told the judge.

“I told her when she was little that she was going to be president some day,” Cimarelli recounted. “Everything she did she put 100% into.”

In high school, when her mother told her she should slow down with her many school and community activities, Maren told her, “I’ll give 100%, even when I’m eating cake.”

Maren befriended everyone, her mother said, and people from Jonathan Law High School, including the custodians who sometimes unlocked the darkroom door so she could develop her own film, told Cimarelli that Maren brightened a room with her smile and love of life.

On April 24, 2014, Cimarelli got the call that would change her life forever. She rushed to the hospital and couldn’t even comprehend what doctors were telling her — that her daughter did not make it.

“I kept saying, ‘No, this only happens in the movies’.”

She recalled seeing her “lifeless angel,” her “baby lying there with a drop of dry blood on her mouth.”

Cimarelli said the blows were meant to silence Maren, but they won’t: Cimarelli said she will form a foundation to help women, in Maren’s memory.

Maren’s father recalled Maren’s first day of kindergarten: She came home crying because someone on the bus picked on her. The next day Jose Sanchez said he walked his daughter to the bus, and stepped aboard to look at the child who had upset Maren.

“This time I couldn't be there for her, and I live with that every day of my life,” Sanchez said.

He told the judge he is “appalled” and “disgusted” with the justice system. He said he could see a 25-year sentence, but he does not think Plaskon should be paroled in 12 to 13 years.

“I feel we’re being sentenced again,” Sanchez said.

Judge John Ronan told Maren’s parents that parole is a possibility and that they will both be advised if and when Plaskon does become eligible for parole, and they will be able to speak.

Plaskon, wearing a yellow jumpsuit and glasses, handcuffed, bowing his head at times, declined an offer to speak during the sentencing. His attorney, however, Edward Gavin, issued a comment for Plaskon, apologizing to Maren’s family and friends.

“You can’t make sense of the senseless,” Gavin said, adding that Plaskon was “profoundly ill” when he stabbed Maren to death.

The maximum sentence for murder in Connecticut is 60 years, Judge Ronan said during court proceedings in March.

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.

In March, Gavin explained that under the plea agreement, Plaskon receives the minimum sentence and remains under the jurisdiction of the corrections department. If he 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 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.

Judge Ronan said during the sentencing that he read doctors’ reports about Plaskon, and that Plaskon’s relationship with Maren was “based on fantasies.”

“She wanted to be your friend,” Ronan said, “and she wanted to help you.”

Maren’s family has said that she reached out to a school counselor about her concern for Plaskon, that he was cutting himself and that he was a risk to himself and others. Cimarelli’s lawyer has filed a lawsuit against the Milford Board of Education and City of Milford as well as Christopher Plaskon and his parents, David and Kathleen Plaskon, arguing that Maren’s pleas were not appropriately addressed.

“How could you have brought yourself to do this to such a wonderful woman?” Judge Ronan said, addressing Plaskon in court Monday.

Lawlor described what was caught on surveillance video at the school April 25, 2014. He said it was the day of the junior prom, and that Plaskon was seen at 7 a.m. wandering the hallways, shaking hands, talking to others, carrying a backpack.

At 7:10 a.m. Plaskon spotted Maren, and Maren approached him. They walked casually toward a secluded stairwell, Lawlor said.

Thirty three seconds later a teacher entered the stairwell and tried to stop the attack.

Lawlor said Plaskon dropped a steak knife that he had been using to cut himself, and that he brought to school that day.

“Thirty-three seconds,” Lawlor said. “It screams out ‘why?’”

Lawlor said Plaskon suffered emotional problems and that his bouts with mental illness were documented, but Lawlor said Plaskon wasn’t ill to the point that would make him not responsible for his actions.

Lawlor and the judge both noted that they took into account Plaskon’s age and his mental status in agreeing to the 25-year sentence.