As balloons blew in the wind and candles dotted Veterans Memorial Park Friday night, hurt, anger, and confusion filled the air.
“They just don’t understand. They just don’t understand how someone could take someone’s life away over something so small,” said Robin Gurerra, who helped former classmates of Sterling and Della Jette organize a candlelight vigil.
Police say an argument over 42-year-old Paul Ferguson’s habit of smoking in the Jette home escalated and in the heat of the moment he grabbed a gun and shot his girlfriend Danielle Jette’s two children, 16-year-old Sterling and 15-year-old Della in the chest.
Guerra said Della and her daughters were best friends.
“My daughter was over there so much that she could have been there,” she said. “It’s scary how fast someone could take your children’s lives away.”
Grief counselors met with the siblings’ classmates at Kaynor Technical High School and Watertown Public Schools, which they attended through eighth grade.
“Why this ever happened to both of them, how’d it come to this,” wondered Shaylin Fisher, who counted herself a friend to both teens.
The killings hit close to home to many of the officers who responded to the scene and are parents themselves.
“I think logic says the more you think about the circumstances and what happened the more difficult it gets, especially for those officers who have children similar in age,” said Joshua Bernegger, deputy chief of the Watertown Police. “I can’t even imagine the loss that’s being experienced by that family and the mother of the children right now.”
Friday, those first responders met with peer support groups and a chaplain, one of the many steps being taken as this entire community starts to heal.
“My heart is broken for our students who lost friends, for our teachers who lost students because I know how much they care about them,” said Dr. Rydell Harrison, Watertown Schools superintendent. “This has been tough for us. It’s very sad in our district. Kids have understandably taken the loss hard.”
Harrison said Sterling and Della formed close bonds with their teachers at Swift Middle School after their father committed suicide in 2016.
Police said during this week’s investigation they found four to six guns registered to the children’s father safely locked away in the Jette home. They don’t believe the Glock Jette used to kill the teens and himself was registered to Danielle Jette’s late husband. They hope to have it traced by next week.
Friday, hundreds of people came bus loads to Watertown’s Veterans Memorial Park to share memories, light candles, and lean on each other as they continue to cope and try to start to heal.
“They were both amazing people and this night is all about them,’’ said Fisher.
“Tonight is about the children to come together, cry their tears, let out some anger and just support each other,” added Guerrera. “We’re just going to miss them. We’re just going to miss them and there’s nothing else to say. They just were really good kids.”