Father of Sandy Hook School Shooting Victim Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

Jeremy Richman, who lost his 6-year-old daughter in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, died in an apparent suicide Monday

Dr. Jeremy Richman at University of New England
Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty

The father of a Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victim was found dead by apparent suicide in Newtown, Connecticut, PEOPLE confirms.

Jeremy Richman, 49, was found at about 7 a.m. Monday at Edmond Town Hall, a movie theater and event space in Newtown where he had an office, the Newtown Police Department said in a statement on Facebook.

Richman’s 6-year-old daughter, Avielle Richman, was among the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

“This is a heartbreaking event for the Richman family and the Newtown community as a whole,” Lt. Aaron Bahamonde said in the statement. “The Police Department’s prayers are with the Richman family right now, and we ask that the family be given privacy in this most difficult time.”

Grab Cut Insert Cut Grab Cut Insert Cut Handout photo of Avielle Richman
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Police with the State of Connecticut Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating the death, which does not appear suspicious, according to the statement.

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Richman, a neuropharmacologist, earned his undergraduate degree and Ph.D. at the University of Arizona. He was a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

After their daughter’s murder, he and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, started The Avielle Foundation to prevent violence through neuroscience aimed at improving brain health.

Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative, San Francisco, USA
Nicole Hockley, (left) who lost her son Dylan in the Sandy Hook shooting, with Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman, (right) who lost their daughter, Avielle, in the tragedy. Jeff Chiu/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“The Avielle Foundation’s mission is two-sided,” the foundation’s website states. “On the one side, we have research. We are funding neuroscience research aimed at understanding the brain’s chemistry, structure, and circuits that lead to violence and compassion.

The other side,” the website says, is “focused on community education and engagement.”

His daughter’s murder, he wrote on the website, left him and his wife “infinitely heartbroken.”

“We miss Avielle more each and every day,” he wrote.

Richman’s apparent suicide comes after two survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting died from apparent suicides in a week, leaving communities across the nation grappling with how to help those who are impacted by these tragedies.

“People don’t talk enough about the lingering effects these shootings have,” Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse Lewis died in the Sandy Hook school shooting, tells PEOPLE.

Debbie Weir, Senior Managing Director of Organizing and Engagement at Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America agrees.

“The trauma from gun violence lasts a lifetime and for many of us, the ‘what-ifs’ are all-consuming,” she says in a statement to PEOPLE. “My father died by gun suicide nine years ago and while the pain never goes away, you can get help. If you or someone you know need help, I urge you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.”

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 45,000 Americans taking their own lives each year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be reduced with the proper mental health support and treatment, and are not weaknesses or flaws, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says on its website.

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D., said there are several signs to look for if you believe someone you know may be or become suicidal.

“It is really difficult for most people to watch someone struggling with feelings of depression or hopelessness about life,” Gilliland previously told PEOPLE. “If you fear that a loved one is struggling with life and they just ‘aren’t themselves,’ talk to them. Try to listen more than you talk and just be curious about the change you have seen in them.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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