After telling his estranged wife in a chilling phone call: “This is how it ends for us,” an upstate New York father allegedly shot dead his 14-year-old honour roll daughter before turning the gun on himself.
Ava Wood, a ninth-grader at Durgee Junior High School in Baldwinsville, was discovered in her bed Friday with a bullet wound to the head after her mother, Heather Wood, told police she failed to show up for school, the Post-Standard of Syracuse reported.
Her father, Christopher Wood, 51, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in another bedroom at the 6 Triangle Place home, where police recovered a shotgun, according to the outlet.
On Thursday night, Christopher called Heather and told her, “This is how it ends for us,” according to CNY Central, which cited an Onondaga County 911 dispatcher who described what the estranged wife reported.
Heather also reportedly told the dispatcher that Christopher had been depressed recently.
“It’s difficult, to say the least, it’s not an easy scene for either of us to witness, both the sheriff and I have been in law enforcement for a long time and to have to walk through a scene like that is not an easy thing to do,” said Baldwinsville Police Chief Michael Lefancheck, referring to county Sheriff Toby Shelley.
Two days earlier, Christopher also sent Heather a series of harassing text messages. In March 2022, he was involved in a stalking incident against her, the Post-Standard reported.
The couple were still married but were separated and did not live together, Lefancheck said. Ava had primarily lived with her dad, he added.
“It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart that I inform you of the tragic loss of Durgee Jr. High School 9th grade student Ava Wood,” the Baldwinsville school district said in an email to parents.
“We are a close-knit school community and our hearts are broken by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with Ava’s family and friends during this extremely difficult time,” it added.
At school, Ava was involved in track and field and played junior varsity soccer, according to the Post-Standard.
On Sunday night, Ava’s friends, classmates and teammates packed St. Mary’s Church for a prayer service and candlelight vigil for the tragic girl.
Her soccer teammates, who wore their team jerseys, described Ava, an honor roll student, as a fun-loving girl who could be competitive on and off the field but always respected everyone.
“Every time we’d see each other, we’d always catch up with each other’s lives,” one classmate said, the outlet reported. “I was always looking forward to seeing her.”
The Rev. Clifford Auth, pastor of St. Mary’s, said Ava “was someone that we all can learn from. In a world that sometimes celebrates disappointment and discord, she was the person that gave tremendous hope.”
Ava’s track coach, Tiffany Stubbmann, told the Post-Standard that she was surprised that the fastest girl on the team didn’t sign up last spring.
Heather called to explain that her daughter had simply forgotten the deadline.
“I was so relieved. I completely counted on Ava. If I said, ‘Ava do this,’ she’d do it. She was self-directed, had drive and an unprecedented work ethic. And she was fast,” Stubbmann told the Post-Standard.
“She’s one of those special students that reminds you why you love coaching,” she said. “She was a leader, a serious competitor and all-around athlete.”
Classmate and close pal Emily Calkins and Ava sat across from each other at lunch every day.
“She would always give me her Welch gummies,” Emily told the outlet in a written note because she was too overcome with grief to talk.
She said Ava told her how much she loved her dad and that she was looking forward to starting a family one day.
Ava wanted kids so she could “spoil them and love them endlessly,” Emily added.
In an email to parents Friday, Principal T.J. Fraher commended the students for their “kindness and willingness to support one another during this tough time.”
On Saturday, Heather issued a statement thanking the community for its support amid the tragedy.
“We want to begin by expressing our gratitude for the outpouring of love that we’ve received in the last 24 hours — it is the love and support from our community that will sustain us in the coming days,” she said.
“To Ava’s friends, classmates, and teammates: please continue sharing photos and tributes to Ava. She loved each and every one of you, and we are grateful for the love you have shown her and our family,” the devastated mother said, adding that the family “must plan for celebrating Ava’s life and laying her to rest.”