Heartbroken family mourns loss of 16-year-old stabbed to death at a Santa Rosa high school

The incident happened during a physical altercation involving three students. Another teen who was stabbed is expected to survive.

ByJ.R. Stone and Anser Hassan KGO logo
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Family mourns loss of teen fatally stabbed at Santa Rosa high school
Family members are mourning the loss of 16-year-old Jayden Pienta, who was stabbed to death at Santa Rosa's Montgomery High School by another student.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Rosa police say a 16-year-old is dead and another student is expected to survive following a stabbing at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa on Wednesday morning.

The victim has been identified as 16-year-old Jayden Pienta, a junior at the high school.

What we know so far

According to Police Chief John Cregan, two juniors entered a classroom and engaged in a physical altercation with a freshman student.

A teacher reportedly jumped into action to break up the fight when one of the students inside the classroom produced a knife and stabbed the other two students. He stabbed Jayden three times in the upper body, and second student in the hand.

Police were notified at 11:11 a.m. of a fight at the high school on Hahman Drive and arrived four minutes later.

Cregan says both students were alert and conscious when police and medical response arrived and were taken to a local hospital, where Jayden died from his wounds.

MORE: 17-year-old student dies after stabbing at Santa Cruz County high school, sheriff says

With the help of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, police searched the area after the suspect fled the scene. Witnesses reportedly saw him hiding in the creek.

A 15-year-old boy, a freshman at the high school, was later found hiding in a creek bed and taken into custody.

Cregan says the weapon, a 4-to-5-inch blade with a black handle, has not been located.

The suspect's name will not be released due to his age, police said. He was arrested and booked into the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Center for three felony charges of homicide, attempted homicide and weapon on a school campus, and one count of misdemeanor battery.

Family heartbroken over shocking news

Family and friends gathered Wednesday night, setting up a memorial for their nephew and grandson Jayden.

"He was stabbed in the heart three times," said Pienta's aunt Carole Snell.

Family members spoke to ABC7 after talking with students who were inside the classroom.

"He was a good boy, he was kind-hearted, sweet loving and gentle. He's a big boy but he wouldn't harm anybody," said Pienta's grandmother Cheryl Griffin.

MORE: Student stabbed at San Jose's Gunderson High School, police say; suspect in custody

When we asked family members why Jayden and another student went to the classroom like police said, this was their response:

"We don't know that. We're not going to confirm or deny that. We don't know that. We have no idea. Jayden's not here to tell us what happened," said several of Pienta's family members. They say there have been recent run-ins with Jayden and the 15-year-old student who was arrested.

Those who knew and loved Jayden continued to show up Wednesday night at the makeshift memorial under the flagpole. His grandmother was in tears.

"I did not expect for my daughter to go through this. How is she going to get through this? How do you let her bury her baby? I don't understand," said Griffin.

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The school announced all classes will be canceled on Thursday and Friday.

During a press conference held by the police chief and school superintendent, a hand full of students and parents complained that not enough is being done to handle the escalating problems at the school. The family told ABC7 News that other students notified Jayden's family about what happened -- not police or Montgomery staff.

The mayor of Santa Rosa and the superintendent were on campus Wednesday afternoon. They left before taking questions from the students and parents.

We are told the school got rid of its resource officers in 2020. Many of the students and parents claim that having an officer on campus might have helped to keep the initial fight from escalating into the attack in the classroom.

This is an ongoing investigation and witnesses are encouraged to come forward and contact the Santa Rosa Police Department.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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