Northwestern students react to fatal stabbing of Illinois high school student

Stephanie Haines

The discovery of the body of Lyons Township High School freshman Kelli O’Laughlin, who was killed in her home Oct. 27, stunned many current Northwestern students who graduated from the La Grange, Ill. high school.

“I was shocked,” Weinberg freshman and recent Lyons Township graduate Gina Garcia said. “I can’t believe this could happen in our community.”

About six current NU freshmen graduated from Lyons Township, according to Garcia.

O’Laughlin was stabbed to death after she walked in on a robbery in her home, Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo told the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune said the police arrested a man in Chicago that same night, but police would not say whether he was connected to O’Laughlin’s death. Two other men have also been charged, and police say they may be connected to several burglaries that occurred in Indian Head Park this summer.

Garcia said she heard about the homicide late Thursday night through text messages from her Lyons Township friends and through Facebook statuses.

“I’ve grown up next to Indian Head Park my whole life,” she said. “I always thought of it as a very safeguarded community because there were always police around.”

Medill freshman Christian Holub said Lyons Township has dealt with tragedy before O’Laughlin’s death. He said this past April a senior died of lymphoma, and in 2009, a Lyons Township freshman committed suicide. Holub said he thinks the killing is more cause for concern, especially because his sister is a freshman at Lyons Township. He said once he found out about O’Laughlin, he worried about his sister’s safety.

“The fact that the murderer is still out there is really creepy,” Holub said. “I’m glad that I was away at school and didn’t have to deal with all the horror going on at home.” Holub’s sister attended the high school’s candlelight vigil for O’Laughlin on Friday night.

SESP freshman and Lyons Township graduate Catherine McGee said the Lyons Township community has been very active in supporting O’Laughlin’s family. She said Lyons Township students created numerous Facebook groups dedicated to O’Laughlin, creating wristbands and T-shirts and hosting memorial services in her name.

“I am proud to be a part of the Lyons Township community because of its support,” McGee said.

SESP sophomore Janet Brown said she used to play on the Lyons Township tennis team, of which O’Laughlin was also a member. Brown added although she never personally met O’Laughlin, some of her friends from tennis are struggling to cope with their teammate’s death. The Lyons Township tennis team is hosting a tournament for the public on Nov. 11. Proceeds will go to the Kelli O’Laughlin Memorial Fund. According to the Chicago Tribune, the fund has collected over $50,000, which will serve as a reward for finding the killer.

“What happened to Kelli is a reminder to me that you have to be thankful for what you have,” Brown said. “Anything could happen to you anywhere.”

O’Laughlin’s funeral will take place on Friday at St. John of the Cross Church in Western Springs, Ill.

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