By Richard Weizel
MILFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - A 16-year-old girl was stabbed to death on Friday by a classmate at their Connecticut high school, and authorities were investigating reports the boy was enraged that she had rejected his invitation to the prom, police said.
The victim, Maren Sanchez, a junior at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after the 7 a.m. attack, Milford Police Chief Keith Mello told a news conference.
A police statement later on Friday said a 16-year-old boy was charged as a juvenile offender with her murder. His identity has been withheld because of his age, and he remains in custody, police said.
He is accused of stabbing Sanchez near a stairwell in the school and lacerating her neck, chest and face with a knife that was recovered at the scene, the police statement said.
"There was blood on her neck. It was awful," said 16-year-old Sam Garcia, a junior at the school, as he walked home after officials closed the school soon after the incident. "I saw the girl lying on the stretcher when they took her out."
The incident took place on the morning of the junior prom, which was set to begin at 7 p.m. at a banquet hall in nearby Stratford. Because of the incident, the prom will be rescheduled, school officials announced.
Police were investigating reports from students that the girl had turned down the boy's invitation to the prom.
The boy, who is also a student at the school, is expected to be arraigned on Monday at the juvenile court in New Haven, police said. The Milford Superior Court will rule on whether the boy will be prosecuted as an adult or a juvenile, police said.
Edward Kovac, a cousin of Sanchez, read a statement from the victim's family Friday afternoon, saying: "We are shocked and devastated."
"Maren should be celebrating at her prom this evening, with her friends and classmates," he said. "Instead, we are mourning her death."
Elizabeth Feser, the city's schools superintendent, said Sanchez was a student athlete and a member of the National Honor Society, an organization that recognizes high-achievers.
Fran Thompson, the school principal, told students and parents in a message that Sanchez was "an incredible young woman" who represented "everything right" about the school.
The Jonathan Law school is in a seaside suburb on Long Island Sound, about 11 miles southwest of New Haven.
The Friday morning attack took place about two weeks after a student went on a stabbing spree a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, high school, injuring 22 people.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Jonathan Allen and Gunna Dickson)