Heartbroken N.J. school keeps memory of mom and 2 kids alive after murder-suicide 💥👩👩💥

Ruth Esther Reyes de Severino and her kids were familiar faces at the Penns Grove Head Start program.

Five-year-old Eurianny participated in Head Start, which provides early childhood readiness services to low-income families, and her 2-year-old brother, Eury, was enrolled for the upcoming school year, according to Dionne Pitts, director of Gateway Community Action Partnership Head Start program in Penns Grove.

Pitts saw Reyes daily and the busy mom was always willing to volunteer with the program.

“Every day, she had the same beautiful smile,” Pitts said, her voice swelling with emotion. “She participated in everything you asked her to do.”

Then came the day the family didn’t show up and the realization that something terrible had happened.

Reyes’ estranged husband, Eugenio Severino, stabbed the woman and their two kids to death in their Penns Grove Gardens apartment unit on Feb. 5, 2020, before hanging himself, authorities said.

Ruth Esther Reyes de Severino is shown with her children in a photo provided by a family member. Submitted Photo

Pitts and her colleagues wanted to ensure Reyes and her kids were never forgotten, so they honored the family with a memorial program Thursday afternoon at the Head Start facility on North Broad Street in the borough. Family and friends were invited to join in as three rose bushes were planted and a plaque was placed in honor of the mother and children.

“It’s just a very tragic situation,” Pitts said. “This is a particular family that we saw every day. Not just the mother and the two children, but the father as well. The mother was always pleasant, the children were always well cared for, smiling.

“So we had no indication that something of this severity would happen. It breaks my heart,” she said.

The staff was stunned by the deaths, Pitts recalled.

“It was like losing members of your own family,” she said. “We love the children here. They become a part of your family.”

The purpose of Thursday’s program was to remember.

“We wanted to pay homage to the family and let the community know that just because you’re not here doesn’t mean we don’t see you or we don’t remember you,” Pitts said. “We just didn’t want this family to be forgotten.”

The program was also a way to let others know about help available to families that are struggling and to highlight that the struggles many endure are unseen in their everyday lives.

“We don’t know what’s going on in each others’ homes,” Pitts said.

Memorial for slain Penns Grove family

Penns Grove Head Start II staff plants flowers during a memorial ceremony remembering Ruth Esther Reyes de Severino and her children, Eurianny and Eury, in Penns Grove, NJ, on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The Severinos were killed in a murder-suicide in 2020.Dave Hernandez | For NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Johnny Solano, a distant cousin of Severino and friend of Reyes who provided jobs for the couple at a local truck stop, expressed his appreciation for the Head Start memorial.

“It’s a nice thing that they’re doing,” said Solano, who noted that the family continues to struggle with the loss.

He is serving as administrator of the estates for Reyes and her kids on behalf of the woman’s parents, who live out of the country.

Reyes’ parents are among those hurting the most.

“Her parents are still devastated by what happened,” Solano said. “They will be for life. It’s something that’s not going to leave.

Reyes, 30, obtained a restraining order against her husband after he allegedly threatened to kill her, according to the family.

She requested that apartment management change her door locks because he had keys for the unit, according to a lawsuit filed by the family against the apartment’s owners. The request was denied, the family alleges, and Severino used his keys to enter the apartment and kill the family.

Solano hopes the lawsuit, which is ongoing, will save others from a similar fate.

“It’s something that hasn’t left my mind since it happened,” he said. “It’s something that is kind of haunting me all the time. I hope it doesn’t happen to somebody else ever.

Memorial for slain Penns Grove family

A plaque remembering Ruth Esther Reyes de Severino and her children, Eurianny and Eury, was dedicated outside of the Penns Grove Head Start II building, in Penns Grove, NJ, on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The Severinos were killed in a murder-suicide in 2020.Dave Hernandez | For NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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Matt Gray may be reached at [email protected].

Heartbroken N.J. school keeps memory of mom and 2 kids alive after murder-suicide

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