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Charlotte Amalie
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Tributes to Slain Teacher Are Part of Coping Process

May 18, 2004 – A memorial to a beloved teacher has been erected in the 900 wing of Central High School. For seven years, young people came to this wing each day to attend the classes of 9th and 10th grade English teacher Natasha Cummings.
Now, in the hallway near her classroom, students, visitors and current and former teachers have placed flowers, poems, candles and hand-made cards filled with signatures and words of sympathy in remembrance of the teacher they describe as "friendly, involved, caring and committed."
"She was a nice person," 10th grader Yvonne Sanes, 16, said as she stood before the memorial. "She was so young. I feel depressed."
Cummings, 31, was one of the victims of Saturday's triple homicide at her home in Estate Barren Spot. Police said Jose Carrillo III, 32, Cummings' boyfriend, confessed to shooting her as well his brother, Wayne Walcott, 25, and Tai Carrillo, the couple's infant son. Carrillo was charged with three counts of first-degree murder at an advice-of-rights hearing Monday. (See "Carrillo Charged with 3 Counts of 1st-Degree Murder".)
The tragedy continues to send shock waves throughout the St. Croix community.
At Central High School, the usually happy faces of the teen-agers this week reflect concern and disbelief. Detachment can be seen in the eyes of some. The Women's Coalition of St. Croix provided the teachers and staff with purple lapel ribbons which denote victims of domestic violence. Black ribbons and bows have been hung on classroom doors.
CHS Principal Kent Moorehead said Cummings was a 1991 graduate of the school and returned to teach at her alma mater in 1998. He described her as a "wonderful person and truly one of our best teachers."
Members of the district's School Crisis Response Team came to the school on Monday to provide grief counseling for students, he said, and a lot of the young people "expressed their emotions through essays, letters and pictures."
School counselors from throughout the district as well as professionals from social service agencies have been on campus to attend to the students' needs and concerns.
"The students got one-on-one attention," Moorehead said, adding that grief counselors will remain available on campus through the end of the week. As the funeral service for Cummings nears, he predicted, "more students will require additional help."
Moorehead has been at CHS for 29 years and its principal since 1992. In all that time, he said, students have never before been faced with the violent death of a teacher. "We've had teachers who have been sick and died, but nothing like this," he said.
A memorial program will be held at the school later this week after arrangements can be made with family members, he said.
Julice Joseph, a colleague of Cummings' on the CHS English faculty, remembers her as a committed, involved teacher who enjoyed her profession. She noted that Cummings was the committee chair for this year's senior prom. "Prom is still on schedule," she said.
Joseph said tributes to Cummings will be made at each upcoming senior class activity, including prom, Class Night, and the baccalaureate and commencement services.
The teachers, the administration and the students are trying to cope with the tragedy, she said, "but the question still remains — why? We don't have any answers."

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