The Avielle Foundation makes international news!

This morning, the Avielle Foundation was profiled in an Associated Press article.  At this moment, over 1700 newspapers and 5000 television and radio broadcasts have permission to publish the article, and many have already chosen to do so.


By Michael Melia (AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. — As parents, Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel were plunged into grief when their only child, 6-year-old Avielle, was killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As scientists, they wanted answers about what could lead a person to commit such violence.

The couple believes it’s unlikely there ever will be a full answer explaining why a man gunned down 26 people inside the Newtown, Conn., school last year. But they feel more research into brain health – and how a propensity for violence is manifested – could help prevent future tragedies.

“When we started reaching out to scientists to talk about the underpinnings of violence and how this particular factor played a role in what happened to us, there is some, but no real, research going on this field,” Hensel said.

On Monday, they announced a scientific advisory board for the Avielle Foundation, which was established with the goal of reducing violence. While some other victims’ families have immersed themselves in the push for tighter gun restrictions, Avielle Richman’s parents see the foundation named for their curly-haired daughter as their response to a tragedy that has launched advocacy work on many fronts, including school safety and mental illness.

The Dec. 14 massacre was carried out by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed 20 first-graders and six educators inside the school with a military-style semi-automatic rifle before committing suicide. The isolated, socially awkward Lanza played first-person shooter video games in a weapon-filled house where he lived with his mother, according to search warrants released last month, but authorities have not described a possible motive or released details of any medical condition that might shed light on his actions.

Avielle, a girl who loved horses, Harry Potter and the color red, had moved to Connecticut with her family about two years before the shooting. Her father kept a blog called “Avielle’s Adventures,” telling friends about a trip to a Thanksgiving Day parade, her 6th birthday at a horse stable, a road trip to Iowa.

Jeremy Richman is a researcher at the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. Hensel, his wife, is a medical writer with her own company. The foundation is a way for them to harness their training and skills – and to channel their grief.

“I think the best way to help from a tragedy such as this is by action where your strengths lie,” Hensel said. “This is our motivation now. We will never stop being parents to Avielle.”

The Avielle foundation, funded through donations and grants, aims to raise $5 million this year and begin reviewing its first grant applications later this year.

One member of the foundation’s advisory board, Terrie E. Moffitt, said science on the origins of violence has been neglected by federal agencies that provide research grants.

“Families of individuals with autism, ADHD, learning problems or schizophrenia demand that funding agencies support research into these disorders,” said Moffitt, a neuroscience professor at Duke University and at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. “Families of violent individuals don’t.”

The other members of the board announced Monday are R. John Krystal, chair of the psychiatry department at the Yale University School of Medicine, and James Blair, chief of the unit on affective cognitive neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health.

The Avielle Foundation says it hopes to remove stigmas for people seeking mental health aid, develop the concept of a “brain health check-up,” and identify behavioral and biochemical diagnostics for detection of people at risk of violent behaviors.


1 thought on “The Avielle Foundation makes international news!”

  1. My co-worker (now ex co-worker) was a good friend of the sister of the shooter (1988 story below). Traci, my co-worker, described this boy as if she was describing the Sandy Hook shooter, it gave me goose bumps. The shooter is alive and in a jail somewhere in Oregon. One question that would be interesting to ask is if the violent nature of the brain, as in a brain scan, is different from a serial killer’s brain. I have never heard of a adolescent serial killer. Adolescents (less than 18) that are capable of mass-killing is a category of society that has not been well characterized. Interviews, behavior notes, etc, to start a distinct character profile would be a logical first approach. At best, this would educate school teachers and principles to know what to look for. Information we have today is all anecdotal without any real scientific research behind it. This foundation is critical, parents, school teachers, educators, could have for the first time tangible checkpoints regarding high risk behavior.

    Below is the account of the high school shooting in 1998. (Taken from Wiki)

    On May 20, 1998, 15-year-old student was expelled from Thurston High School for bringing a firearm into school. After returning to his home from the police station, he got his father’s Ruger semi-automatic rifle, then shot and killed his parents. The next day, on May 21, [the shooter] drove his mother’s car to the school, and, wearing a long trench coat, he entered the cafeteria and began shooting at students with the rifle.[5] As he was reloading his rifle, [the shooter] was subdued by seven other students who held him until the police arrived at the scene. The arresting officer was shocked that it was “just a kid” but his shock soon wore off upon searching the suspects’ trench coat, which was full of knives, bullets, and gun magazines. Two students were killed and 22 others were wounded. He was charged with four counts of aggravated murder. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 111 years in prison.[6] His case has become one of the standard case studies in profiling students who bring guns to school for purposes of murder, a prelude to the Columbine High School massacre.[7]

Leave a Comment