Saturday, December 15, 2012
The medical examiner who led the effort to identify the bodies of those slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including 20 first graders, said he has been so busy trying to get the children's bodies released to funeral homes that he hasn't had time to grieve.
"Not yet," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said at a press conference this afternoon.
"I've been at this for a third of a century and my sensibilities may not be the average man, but this probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues have seen," Carver said.
The magnitude of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., became even more sobering when Connecticut State Police released a list of the victims, 20 of whom were first graders, gunned down at close-range while in their classrooms.
Carver called the injuries sustained by all 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School "devastating" and said he believed all of the deceased had been hit more than once.
"I only did seven of the autopsies," he said. "The victims I had ranged from three to 11 wounds each. That's a sample."
Carver and his team set up a temporary morgue outside of the school where they began the preliminary identification process, taking pictures of victims' bodies and facial features for identification. Familes have not yet been allowed to see the victims, he said.
"It's easier on the families when you do that. There is a time and a place for up close and personal in the grieving process," he said, adding that he felt the best way to conduct the preliminary identifications was through photographs.
Victoria Soto, 27, a first grade teacher, was among the dead. She reportedly threw herself in front of the gunman to shield her students.
"The family was informed that she was trying to shield, get her children into a closet and protect them from harm, and by doing that put herself between the gunman and the children," Jim Wiltsie, Soto's cousin, told ABC News. "And that's when she was tragically shot and killed."
Five of the 16 kids in Soto's class were slain, including Noah Pozner, whose twin sister was in another classroom, barricaded with her teacher in the bathroom.
"I'm very proud to have known Vicki," Wiltsie added. "Her life dream was to be a teacher. And her instincts kicked in when she saw there was harm coming to her students."
"It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children," he said. "And in our eyes, she is a hero."
Dawn Hocksprung, a well-liked principal at the school who tweeted about her students, and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, were also among the dead.
The circumstances of Dawn Hochsprung's death are less clear, but those who have spoken have had nice things to say about the Sandy Hook principal.
"When we had our orientation, you could tell she loved her job," Brenda Lediski, a parent, told ABC News by phone.
Hochsprung, 47, only became principal of Sandy Hook in recent years, according to a local news report.
"She was always enthusiastic, always smiling, always game to do anything," Kristin Larson, a former PTA secretary, told the Boston Globe. "When I saw her at the beginning of the school year, she was hugging everyone."
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Dan Harris, Lauren Effron, Michael James and Chris Cuomo contributed to this report.