HAWTHORNE : Students Mourn After Teacher Found Slain

Hawthorne Intermediate School students coped with the violent death of a favorite teacher by weeping, talking out their feelings, painting a mural and writing letters to her this week.

Leda Griffen, 44, died Sunday after her husband attacked her with a hunting knife in their Wilshire area home, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Ross Moen.

Ibrahim Gonzalez, 39, who also attempted suicide, was charged Tuesday with murder, said Detective John McCarley.

Gonzalez reportedly called police at about 7:40 a.m. Sunday and said he had killed his wife, McCarley said. Gonzalez was treated for a self-inflicted knife wound on his neck at a local hospital before being booked into Los Angeles County Jail, police said.

School officials called teachers and school staff at home Sunday to alert them to the tragedy, and six psychologists held counseling sessions on campus in Spanish and English all day Monday.

"It was by far the most difficult day the school has had to deal with," Principal Sharon Phillips said.

Besides teaching U.S. history and social studies, Griffen coordinated bilingual programs at the school. She learned Spanish so she could communicate with her students as the Latino population at the school grew, Phillips said.

Griffen inspired students with her belief in the rights of minorities and young people, and she organized multicultural events and a dance festival.

It was on a one-year sabbatical to Cuba that Griffen met Gonzales, Phillips said. They were married for four years.

A Hawthorne native, Griffen attended local schools, including Hawthorne Intermediate, before getting her degree at UCLA. After graduating from college, she returned to the intermediate school, where she taught for 20 years.

This week, some grieving students were unwilling to go into Griffen's classroom, Phillips said. Others went in and wouldn't come out. School counselors and staff encouraged students to write Griffen a letter, saying what they would have liked to tell her if they'd had one more chance.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the school cafeteria at 4366 W. 129th St. Donations to a memorial fund in Griffin's name may be sent Janet Santos at the same address.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World