Friends of teen murder victim celebrate her life with vigil

Mile High Academy hosted the event in Highlands Ranch


Friends, fellow students and teachers of a recently slain teen celebrated the girl's life during a candlelight vigil at Mile High Academy in Highlands Ranch on Jan. 16.

Mya Pena, 17, was a student at the school before she was killed Jan. 14 in what is being investigated as a murder-suicide.

During the vigil, students spoke to the crowd about Mya's personality and their favorite memories with her.

“I knew Mya since the first grade,” one student said. “She was probably one of the toughest people I ever met.”

Many students broke down in tears as they talked about when they first met Mya and the impact she had on them.

“She was so supportive, she was always there for me,” a classmate said.

One friend spoke about a time when the two of them got lost in the woods together and she became panicked. Mya told her to stop crying and said “let's keep moving,” the friend said.

Commonalities emerged as the students told their stories, painting a vivid image of who Mya was and what about her stood out the most: her unwavering smile, her competitive spirit, her independence and her support of friends.

A former coach told a story about Mya's intensity on the soccer field but pointed out she had another side as well.

“She had this contrast of this toughness yet this tenderness all at the same time,” he said.

At some points, students spoke directly to Mya's family, expressing sorrow for what happened and offering support.

“I'm so sorry this happened to you,” one student said through tears. “She was an amazing person who cared about everyone around her.”

Mya was killed after she got into a car with Samuel Hoffman, a longtime friend, after school on Jan. 14, Sheriff Tony Spurlock told reporters in a recent news conference. Investigators believe that within 15 minutes, Hoffman had killed her.

Later that night, law enforcement found Hoffman's car and when they made contact with him, the 18-year-old took his own life.

Hoffman, from Centennial, had been placed on an emergency mental health hold in the past and was being investigated in Aurora for a domestic violence incident involving a different girl.

The apparent murder-suicide is still under investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

As of Jan. 21, a GoFundMe created to support the Pena family and verified by them had raised more than $30,000.


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