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(BOSTON) — A medical student stabbed to death in a Massachusetts library was “The Little Engine That Could,” her mother said Thursday.
Deane Kenny Stryker “was a very warm person, always did the right thing, loved to pull a prank, conducted herself with self-respect and respected others,” Michal Kenny said in a statement to The Boston Globe on the same day as her daughter’s funeral.
Stryker, 22, was killed Saturday at the Winchester Public Library.
The first-year student at the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Maine wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl, her mother said. In high school, she shadowed a family friend at a medical walk-in clinic.
“When I picked her up at the end of her overwhelming first day, she got in the car, cried awhile and then said: ‘I never want to be in a room with someone who’s suffering and not know how to help them,’” her mother wrote.
Jeffrey Yao, 23, is being held without bail after pleading not guilty to murder in Stryker’s death. His lawyer said Yao is severely mentally ill.
Prosecutors have called the attack unprovoked. Stryker and Yao attended Winchester High School at the same time but apparently did not know each other.
Stryker would want to make sure what happened to her did not happen to anyone else by improving the mental health system, her mother said.
“Her approach to medicine was to strengthen and understand the whole body as a whole system, not only treat symptoms. She would want the same approach in dealing with this,” she wrote. “Not to set up more security measures in libraries, but to understand what allowed this to happen and take care of that. There is so much that needs to be improved about our mental health system, its accessibility and effectiveness.”
Stryker is also survived by two sisters. Her father, Timothy Stryker, died in 2011.
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Lawyer: Winchester man accused in stabbing struggled with mental illness — The Patriot-Ledger
4/11 -Winchester Police Chief Peter MacDonnell thanked the police officers and everyone at the library for coming to the victim’s aid. [Wicked Local/Add Ridgewood]
5/11 – Middlesex Attorney Marian Ryan said Jeffrey Yao, a suspect in today’s stabbing in Winchester Library, is being held without bail pending his arraignment in Woburn District Court on Monday, Feb. 26. [Wicked Local/Ann Ridgewood]
7/11 – Jeffrey Yao, of Winchester, is arraigned on murder charges and attempted murder Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Woburn District Court. He allegedly stabbed a woman to death and attempted to stab a man to death in the Winchester Public Library the previous Saturday. Boston Herald Pool Photo/ Faith Ninivaggi
8/11 – Jeffrey Yao, of Winchester, appears with his lawyer, J.W. Carney, Jr. during his arraignment in Woburn District Court Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. He was arraigned on murder charges and attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a woman to death and attempting to stab a man to death in the Winchester Public Library the previous Saturday. Boston Herald Pool Photo/Faith Ninivaggi
11/11 – Jeffrey Yao is brought into Woburn District Court, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Woburn, Mass. Yao is arraigned on murder charges and attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a woman to death and attempting to stab a man to death in the Winchester Public Library. [Boston Herald Pool Photo / Faith Ninivaggi]
1/11 – Jeffrey Yao’s attorney J.W. Carney, Jr. addressed the press after his client’s arraignment in Woburn District Court on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. [Wicked Local/Mariya Manzhos]2/11Hide caption
Crime scene following a double stabbing at the Winchester Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. [Wicked Local/Mariya Manzhos]
11/11Hide caption – Jeffrey Yao is brought into Woburn District Court, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Woburn, Mass. Yao is arraigned on murder charges and attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a woman to death and attempting to stab a man to death in the Winchester Public Library. [Boston Herald Pool Photo / Faith Ninivaggi
Victim stabbed 20 times
On Saturday morning, Yao allegedly approached Deane Stryker from the back while she was reading at the Winchester Public Library and, unprovoked, began stabbing her with a 10-inch hunting knife. Stryker was able to get up and make it to the front lobby, while Yao ran after her, continuing to inflict wounds. The autopsy conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, determined the cause of Stryker’s death to be “sharp force trauma with 20 knife wounds, according to the statement presented by Assistant District Attorney Kate Cimini.
During the attack Lester Taber, a 77-year-old man who had been sitting near Stryker, yelled at the defendant to stop, according to Cimini’s statement. In reaction, Yao inflicted a cut on Taber’s upper arm with a knife. Several individuals managed to separate Yao from Stryker and cornered him until police arrived.
Carney told reporters that Yao’s episode was unexpected.
“This is the type of episode of an illness that can’t be predicted. It’s totally unexpected to everyone, most especially his parents,” Carney said.
The aftermath of the crime has been distressing for the defendant and his family, Carney said after the arraignment.
“Yao is in shock, trying to make sense of the situation,” said Carney.
“This whole tragedy is every parent’s nightmare; it’s a nightmare for the victim’s family,” he added.
Yao’s parents feel devastated about Stryker’s death, he said.
Carney said he hopes for an outcome in which Yao will be committed to a maximum security mental hospital, “where he will remain for the rest of his life,” he said.
Yao on probation following earlier crime
According to court records, Yao was supposed to be undergoing court-ordered mental health treatment at the time of the stabbing. The treatment was a condition of Yao’s pretrial probation put in place after Yao allegedly tried to break into a neighbor’s house.
Shortly before 4 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2017, Yao’s neighbors awoke to loud bangs that shook the house, they told police. According to the criminal complaint, one of the home’s residents observed Yao trying to break in through the sliding door in back. Yao was slamming the glass door with his arm and his body, the complaint states, and police found a broken clay plant pot on the deck outside the door, and dirt and clay on the door suggesting Yao had tried to throw the pot through the glass door, as well.
The incident left the residents visibly shaking and initially unable to speak clearly, the criminal complaint states. The complaint quotes one resident calling Yao “a total loose cannon.”
In interviews with the Star, many residents in Yao’s neighborhood described many run-ins with Yao over the years, and said many were afraid even when walking the short distance from their cars to their front doors at night. Winchester Chief of Police Peter MacDonnell confirmed the WPD had numerous encounters with Yao in the past years.
A Winchester police officer located Yao around 4 a.m. the night of the incident and placed him under arrest without incident. While being arrested, the criminal complaint states, Yao “appeared to be very disoriented and continued making comments about having voices in his head.”
At a Dec. 22 pretrial hearing, Yao was placed on one-year pretrial probation. A condition of his probation was that he continue unspecified mental health treatment, and take medications as prescribed.
Staff writer James Sanna contributed to this report