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Memorial Dedicated at NE Phila. School to Autistic Boy Who Died

Steve Tawa Steve Tawa
Steve Tawa joined KYW Newsradio in 1990, and splits his time between...
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By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — To recognize World Autism Awareness Day, a specialized school in Northeast Philadelphia today celebrated the life of one of its students who tragically lost his life at the hand of his father in a murder-suicide.

At the Woodhaven campus of the NHS School, along Southampton Road, Jessica Harkins (at right in photo below) recalled visiting private-placement schools after her son, Jake, could no longer be sustained in public schools in 2011:

“Every school we went to, Jake would have an immediate meltdown, and tell us, ‘All done.’ “

That is, until he became an NHS student.

“Jake looked at me and he let go of my hand, and he followed all of the other kids,” Harkins recalls.

But last September, Jake, 9, was shot to death by his father, who also wounded his wife before taking his own life.

Jake’s teacher, Dorothy Eichler (at left below), today told the 40 students in the school, along with their families and friends, about dedicating a special bench Jake’s name.

“We come together to remember Jake and to dedicate an area of the playground he enjoyed, in his memory,” Eichler said.

 

(Teacher Dorothy Eichler, left, and parent Jessica Harkins.  Photo by Steve Tawa)

(Teacher Dorothy Eichler, left, and parent Jessica Harkins. Photo by Steve Tawa)

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The attendees then embraced in front of a framed photo of Jake placed on the bench, surrounded by balloons and flowers.