CHAMPAIGN — Counselors will be available at South Side School when classes resume next week to support the friends of a fourth-grader whose mother died violently on New Year's Eve.
South Side Principal Bill Taylor said Emily Davis, 34, was well-known and well-liked at the elementary school where her two daughters have both been students.
Taylor, 10, is in the fourth grade there, while Julia, 12, is now in the sixth grade at Edison Middle School.
"She had lots of friends here at South Side. They were just kind of a super family," said Taylor.
Mrs. Davis died of gunshots believed to have been inflicted by Jason Woods, 37, the father of her third child, a 3-month-old son.
Mr. Woods is believed to have then turned the gun on himself. He was pronounced dead at the house they shared on Honeysuckle Lane Monday morning. Mrs. Davis was pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital's emergency room.
Police had been called to the home at 6:22 a.m. and found the two mortally wounded adults and the three children, who were physically unharmed.
Taylor said he visited with Mrs. Davis' daughters and other family members on Tuesday.
"They're sweet girls. They're strong and the family is really strong. I just wanted to let them know we're thinking about them and we're here to support the girls and the family," he said.
Mrs. Davis' aunt, Cindy Parnell, was a physical education teacher at South Side for 26 years before retiring last year, he said, so the South Side family is hurting on multiple levels.
Mrs. Davis, a pharmacy technician at the Walgreens at Springfield and Mattis avenues, was described as "feisty" by a fellow South Side parent and friend.
"She had a really tight group of friends," said Kerry Rossow, a room parent who said Mrs. Davis was always the first parent to respond to a need for anything, from chaperoning to food.
"She was a spitfire, a really feisty character," said Rossow, who like others at the school was shocked by the news of her and Mr. Woods' deaths.
Rossow recounted a tale of driving her children through the pharmacy pickup at Walgreens and laying on the buzzer on a day when Mrs. Davis was working.
"She thought it was someone being impatient. We heard (over the microphone) 'I hate you, Rossow.' We had a great laugh over that," Rossow said.
Rossow said Mrs. Davis, who had divorced the father of her girls, had somewhat of a whirlwind relationship with Mr. Woods. Police said they'd been in a dating relationship for about a year.
"When she first told us she was going to have this baby, she said, 'I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.' She was beaming and crazy for this baby," Rossow said.
Taylor said he and the school social worker Jan Bellington plan to speak to the fourth-graders as a whole.
"We'll talk about how sad it is when kids lose a parent and keep the conversation real general," he said, adding the focus will be on how the children can support Taylor.
Mrs. Davis' funeral service is at 11 a.m. Friday at Sunset Funeral Home, 710 N. Neil St., C.
Funeral services for Mr. Woods will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Freewill Baptist Church, 1402 W. Eads St., U.