Teacher shoots her kids, then self

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 5, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

A somber veil of sadness shrouded John F. Kennedy Middle School on Monday as children returned to discover one of their favorite former teachers was dead. The school’s administration and Principal Vivian Covington were shocked when they learned that Sabrina Carawan, the teacher found dead early Saturday morning, had not only shot herself to death, but had also taken the lives of her two teen-aged children.

Carawan and her two children were found early Saturday morning when a friend went to the home after 17-year-old Kristen Carawan failed to show up at school. Carawan’s 14-year-old son, Keith Jr., was also found dead in the Chesapeake residence on Big Bend Drive.

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Suffolk Police Spokesperson Lt. Debbie George said Chesapeake investigators determined Monday that the killings took place sometime between midnight Friday and early Saturday morning. The Chesapeake police are continuing their investigation.

According to Lt. George, Keith Carawan Sr. said that, in spite of his ex-wife’s actions, she had been a loving and caring mother, He is also quoted as saying she had suffered from depression and bi-polar disease and that she was manic-depressive. He also attributes his tragic loss to her bi-polar condition.

&uot;She was a very good teacher of sixth-grade English, U.S. history, math, and science and she was such a thoughtful caring person that she ate lunch almost every day with her students,&uot; said Covington. &uot;We are truly saddened by her death, and we wish we could have known what to do for her. We are so shocked! She was so gentle and easy going and I wouldn’t think she’d even have a gun, much less know how to use one. She was so soft spoken… this is just too tragic. Such a shame… and, then, to snuff out the lives of her children?

Covington added that Carawan had taken time off from her teaching duties and then resigned in January. The principal added that counselors and crisis intervention teams were at JFK Middle School yesterday.

Kristen attended Western Branch High School and Keith went to Western Branch Middle School.

The children’s father lives six miles from his ex-wife’s home.

Aldersgate United Methodist Church will have a memorial service for the Carawans Wednesday evening.

Melissa Fetter, emergency services clinician at Western Tidewater Mental Health Services, said sometimes even health care professionals have difficulty determining how close a person may be to attempting suicide.

It is even difficult for a close friend or family member to know for certain the thoughts coursing through someone’s mind.

&uot;Depression and the depressive phase of bipolar disorder may cause symptoms such as intense sadness, hopelessness, lethargy, loss of appetite, disruption of sleep, decreased ability to perform ones usual tasks, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities,&uot; said Fetters. &uot;Taken together, these symptoms may lead someone to consider suicide; however, with proper treatment the majority of people do feel better.&uot;

Fetter said there is help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Western Tidewater Mental Health Center located just across from the Godwin Courts Building. The address is 157 N. Main St., Suite D. You may also get help after hours by calling 925-2484.