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Aurora, Colorado: Faces of the Victims

Published: 7/23/2012
A nation grieved this weekend after hearing the horrifying news of the shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Fans were attending a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, excited about seeing the next Batman movie, when chaos hit and a shooter opened fire. In the end, 12 were killed and dozens injured.

The names of the victims were released on Sunday, and we began to see their faces and learn about their lives. Obituary information isn't yet available for most of the victims, but reporters at the Denver Post seem to have adopted methods similar to those used by the New York Times to provide obit snippets for victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.

An article featuring short items about each of the shooting fatalities identifies Veronica Moser-Sullivan as the youngest at age 6.

Veronica’s great aunt Annie Dalton told the Post that the "vibrant" little girl was bragging four days ago about learning how to swim.

Veronica’s mother, Ashley Moser, 25, who was seriously wounded by the gunman, remains in critical condition at Aurora Medical Center, the story said. She passes in and out of consciousness, Dalton said, and does not yet know that her daughter has died.

Veronica Moser-Sullivan (Denver Post)
Veronica Moser-Sullivan (Denver Post)


The next youngest victim, Alexander J. “AJ” Boik, 18, who graduated from Aurora’s Gateway High School, was being remembered Saturday as a talented and kind man who enjoyed baseball, making pottery and music.

In a statement, his family said: "AJ Boik was a wonderful, handsome and loving 18-year-old young man with a warm and loving heart.”

Boik's plans included attending Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall
, according to a longer Denver Post article. His family said his dream was to become an art teacher and open his own studio.

Alexander Boik (Denver Post)
Alexander Boik (Denver Post)


Micayla Medek, 23, had graduated from William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora, the article said.

She identified herself as a Subway sandwich artist and a member of the class of 2015 of the Community College of Aurora on her Facebook page, according to the article.

“I'm a simple independent girl who's just trying to get her life together while still having fun," she wrote.

 Micayla Medek (AP Photo/Courtesy of the family)
Micayla Medek (AP Photo/Courtesy of the family)


Jessica Ghawi, 24, also known as Jessica Redfield, moved from Texas to Colorado to forge a career in sports journalism, per the article. That passion also probably took her to Toronto, where she walked out of a shopping-mall food court moments before a gunman shot seven people in June.

In a blog entry, she described how the experience reminded her "how blessed I am for each second I am given.”

A more complete obit was posted at ABCNews.com.

 Jessica Ghawi (Denver Post)
Jessica Ghawi (Denver Post)


Alexander Teves, also 24, recently earned his master's degree in counseling psychology from the University of Denver, according to the article.

His personal Facebook page lists him as a 2010 graduate of the University of Arizona, and a 2006 graduate of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix.

A friend, identified only as Caitlin on Twitter, posted messages on the social media network early Friday from the Century 16 theater, and wrote on Twitter early Saturday that Teves was, "One of the best men I ever knew. The world isn't as good a place without him.”


Alexander Teves (Mercury News)
Alexander Teves (Mercury News)


A Legacy.com memorial website for Jonathan T. Blunk describes Blunk as a great man, loving husband and father, and incredible person gone far too soon from this world. You'll forever be in our hearts and minds Jonny. You have touched so many people in so many ways. We wish you were here to see all of this, and all of the people that love you in so many ways. This is for you brother. A gathering place for all of your family, friends, and people who care for you. Rest in Paradise.

The Denver Post article says Blunk, 26, was shot to death in the Aurora theater while trying to protect his girlfriend, according to NBC News.

Blunk's estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, who lives in Reno, Nev., with their two kids, told NBC News that she was notified of his death by the FBI.


A longer news story from the Post says Blunk enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Procter Hug High School in Reno in 2004 and served aboard the USS Nimitz in San Diego. He left the Navy, separated from his wife and moved to Colorado in 2009. He had been working at a hardware store at the time of the theater shooting.

Jonathan Blunk with his two children (AP Photo)
Jonathan Blunk with his two children (AP Photo)


Alex M. Sullivan had gone to the midnight screening of the new Batman film to celebrate his 27th birthday, according to the Denver Post piece. The Sullivan family was notified of his death at 8 p.m. Friday after they had desperately searched for Alex for more than 14 hours, a release from the family said.

"The Sullivan family lost a cherished member of their family today," a release from the family said. "Alex was smart, funny, and above all loved dearly by his friends and family."


More remembrances from Sullivan’s family and friends appear in a an article on the Denver Channel 7 News site.

Alex Sullivan (Denver Post)
Alex Sullivan (Denver Post)


Matthew McQuinn, also 27, died saving his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, per the Post piece.

Yowler, who was shot in the knee during the attack, could not get information about McQuinn’s condition from the hospital because the two were not related, the article said.

McQuinn was from St. Paris, Ohio, graduated from Vandalia-Butler High School in 2004, and worked at a Target store in Denver.

 Matthew McQuinn (AP Photo/Facebook)
Matthew McQuinn (AP Photo/Facebook)


John T. Larimer, a 27-year-old sailor, was stationed with the Navy in Colorado and was one of two servicemen to be killed in the attack.

His family issued a statement saying: We respectfully ask that the family and friends of John be allowed time and privacy to grieve for John and we send our thoughts and prayers out to the families of the other victims and those still recovering in the hospital. We love you John and we will miss you always.

More about Larimer’s pre-Navy life in Illinois can be found in a Chicago Tribune story.

 John T. Larimer (AP Photo/The Larimer family)
John T. Larimer (AP Photo/The Larimer family)


Jesse E. Childress, 29, was an Air Force reservist and cyber systems operator currently on active duty and stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

“This tragic event has affected everybody here at Buckley Air Force Base and our local community friends and neighbors," base commander Col. Daniel Dant said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of each and every loved one."

The Post ran a longer article about Childress when Childress was identified as a one of the dead.

Jesse Childress (AP Photo)
Jesse Childress (AP Photo)


Rebecca Wingo, 32, listed Joe's Crab Shack as her employer on Facebook.

Her father, Steve Hernandez, wrote on his Facebook page: "I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man, my grief right now is inconsolable, I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable."

A friend described her as a gentle, sweet, beautiful soul.

Wingo graduated from Ford High School in Quinlan, Texas, and had served in the Air Force, according to an article posted by NBCNews.com in Dallas.

 Rebecca Wingo (Mercury News)
Rebecca Wingo (Mercury News)


Gordon W. Cowden, 51, the oldest of those killed, was a resident of Aurora and a native of Austin, Texas.

His family released this statement: "Loving father, outdoorsman and small business owner, Cowden was a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family. A quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle."

Gordon Cowden (AP Photo/The Cowden Family)
Gordon Cowden (AP Photo/The Cowden Family)


***

This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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