SAN LEANDRO--Students and staff at San Leandro High School tried to cope this week with the violent death of 15-year-old Myrna Umanzor, the second student at the school to be slain this school year.
Myrna, a ninth-grader at the school's Fred T. Korematsu Campus, was stabbed to death Friday evening in her father's San Leandro home. The sole suspect, 19-year-old Oakland resident Henry Leon, was found dead from hanging on Saturday at the Port of Oakland.
Leon's death, which police said was a suicide, occurred almost exactly two years after his father, Porfirio Leon, committed suicide by hanging.
One of Myrna's brothers, Felipe Umanzor, 13, said Monday that Myrna and Henry Leon had broken up about three weeks ago and that Myrna and the couple's 9-month-old baby, Daniela, had recently moved to the family's home on Pacific Avenue.
Felipe described his sister as someone who liked to go shopping and who was very devoted to her baby. He said Henry Leon, who had been a friend of the family for at least seven years, seemed calm and quiet. "We never saw it coming," Felipe said. However, he said suicide ran in the Leon family.
Porfirio Leon was 54 when he hanged himself on Jan. 30, 2010, in his Oakland home, according to the Alameda County Coroner's Office. Members of the Umanzor family said Porfirio Leon ran a small tire business in Oakland that Henry had inherited.
Felipe said he and his four brothers were playing outside Friday evening when Leon stabbed Myrna inside their home. Their father, Pedro Umanzor, said he came home and scared Leon away.
Police officers found Myrna suffering from multiple stab wounds to her torso. Paramedics attempted to save her, but she died from her injuries, police said.
Pedro Umanzor said he is a truck driver who has lived in San Leandro for 11 years with his wife and sons, while Myrna lived with her mother in Oakland. All five of his sons attend San Leandro schools. He said he will raise Daniela.
San Leandro schools Superintendent Cindy Cathey said the mood in the district's schools has been sad and somber. Monday was officially Fred T. Korematsu Day, but a commemoration for the civil rights icon and ninth-grade campus namesake became a memorial service for Myrna, Cathey said. Students at the campus released white balloons Monday in Myrna's name.
On Tuesday, San Leandro High School Assistant Principal Elisa Alvarez was at the Umanzor family home, checking in on the boys and their father. She said she was going to drive Pedro Umanzor to an office in Oakland that assists victims of crime and that the school would assist with funeral arrangements.
"Nothing can really prepare you for something like this," Marie Vangene, a school district psychologist assigned to John Muir Middle School, said Tuesday. "This is a terrible tragedy. It affects not only students, but teachers, too.
"We did have children that needed attention yesterday," she said. "They needed someone to talk to. What often happens when children experience a death, they start thinking about losses they have endured, like the loss of a grandparent or a sibling, and it can retraumatize them and they need someone to talk to."
In October, San Leandro High School 10th-grader Leneasha Northington, 16, was one of three people who were shot and killed in San Leandro after a party.
Vangene said San Leandro middle and high schools have guidance counselors and district psychologists whom students can talk to if they are feeling distraught. She said teachers throughout the district informed their students Monday about Myrna's death, adding that teachers are very skilled at dispelling rumors and informing without going into details.
"What we'll probably see in the months to come, some children might still need to talk to somebody about this violent incident, and we're here to help them if needed," Vangene said.
San Leandro High School officials and community members have set up a fund to assist the Umanzor family. Anyone who would like to help can visit any Wells Fargo branch and donate to the Myrna Umanzor Memorial Fund.
Jason Sweeney covers San Leandro. Contact him at 510-293-2469. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.