The remote Sonoma County community of Annapolis is mourning the death of a local eighth-grader, a 13-year-old girl who apparently took her own life despite her tender age, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said.
The student, whose name was not released, reportedly shot herself in the head Tuesday morning with a .22-caliber revolver at her family's home on Soda Springs Road, authorities said.
She died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Sonoma County Coroner's Office said.
The girl, whose parents grew up in the area, leaves family in Annapolis and Santa Rosa, her school principal said. She lived with her father, his wife and three half-siblings.
Authorities did not release the girl's name.
She was a familiar, smiling face at Horicon Elementary School, a small, K-8 school of 62 children where kids of all ages know each other.
"We're doing well, considering," principal Patty Dineen said Wednesday, "but it was a tragic incident, and we're a very close and tight-knit family."
The girl had attended school Monday and appeared her usual happy self, Dineen said.
"She is, to all appearances, a strong student, happy, beautiful child. Beautiful smile. Kind of a quiet strength to her," Dineen said. "You know, the kids that were remembering her this morning remembered her being helpful, friendly."
Officials said the Sheriff's Office was notified just after 8 a.m. Tuesday of an emergency at the Soda Springs Road house. Deputies found the girl with a gunshot wound to her head and she was airlifted to the hospital.
Law enforcement officials said they have no reason to believe her death was anything but a suicide and are not investigating further, beyond an autopsy Friday or Monday.
Coroner's Sgt. Greg Stashyn said he has never heard of someone so young taking their own life in the area. But suicide is not uncommon among young people. The federal Centers for Disease Control identifies suicide as the fourth leading cause of death in those ages 10-to-14.
Dineen said school staffers were monitoring the situation closely throughout the day Tuesday. As word of the tragedy spread, Dineen went classroom to classroom to explain that the girl had been hurt and hospitalized, and to ask students to "think positive thoughts for her and her family."
The school has only four classrooms, where students of two or three grades share rooms and teachers. Kids in grades six to eight learn together, so some of the girl's one-time classmates are now freshmen and sophomores at Point Arena High, Dineen said. The girl's two younger sisters also attend Horicon.
A grief counselor was on campus Wednesday, and students were encouraged to draw pictures or write notes or journal entries as a means of expressing their grief.
Families also have been provided information about additional counseling, Dineen said.
At Horicon, "the big kids are caretakers to the little guys," she said. "When they play games out on the field, it's the big kids helping the little kids learn how to play. She was very drawn to the younger ones, and they loved her."
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org