WAKEFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — A young Rhode Island boy, who lost both his parents last month in a murder-suicide, is receiving an incredible amount of community support.
According to Woonsocket Police, 56-year-old Glenn Benvenuti shot and killed his ex-wife, 45-year-old Michelle, before turning the gun on himself on Sept. 30. The two had been divorced for about five years.
Their son, Hunter, was inside Mr. Benvenuti’s Woonsocket home at the time of the shootings. Police said he was not hurt, and they believe he did not witness the incident.
Hunter is now living with his aunt and is back in school.
“He does know what’s going on,” Debi Vannoy, a cousin of Hunter’s grandmother, said. “As much as a 7-year-old can understand. I’m an adult, and I have a hard time understanding it.”
Vannoy said upon receiving the news, she wanted to help. She created a GoFundMe Page to raise money for Hunter.
“It would give me a focus. I would feel like i was doing something,” Vannoy said. “Not what the family really wanted, which was to get that beautiful woman [Michelle] back.”
So far, the page has raised more than $25,000 for Hunter. But, Vannoy said the community support extends far beyond the donations.
“The family has also been supported by people they don’t even know, and they are so blown away by that,” she explained.
Vannoy said the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence paid for Michelle’s burial. Day One has offered assistance. She even said Michelle’s former landlord told the family they would pay for the cost of moving her and Hunter’s belongings from the North Smithfield apartment they shared.
In addition, Vannoy told Eyewitness News the North Smithfield School Department, where Hunter attends school, is helping him readjust.
When Hunter returned to school last week, Vannoy said his classmates made him cards and gave him a Build a Bear.
“He said it was the best day ever. And he said he felt like infinity, which I guess is a superhero,” Vannoy said.
Vannoy said the healing will take time, and as they focus on Hunter, the family is also working to keep his mother’s memory alive.
“She [Michelle] won’t be forgotten, you know, not with this family,” she said.
Vannoy also said the family would like to thank the Woonsocket Police Department for its support during this difficult time.
Anyone who is interested in donating can visit the family’s GoFundMe page.