Ava Wood’s story — Her life and untimely death

Ava Wood

On 20th January 2023, the police responded to a 911 call by Heather Wood, who claimed that her daughter, Ava Wood, hadn’t reported to school and neither she nor her father, Christopher Wood, was responding to calls or knocks at the front door. The police accessed the house using Heather’s keys and discovered the heart-wrenching scene of a murder-suicide.

“I’m in my 29th year of law enforcement. That was one of the most challenging scenes I’ve walked through,” Sheriff Toby Shelley told CNY Central. 

Authorities said that Christopher shot Ava before turning the shotgun on himself. 

Ava Wood was a driven and disciplined athlete and student

Ava Wood was a star athlete and student at Durgee Junior High: the 14-year-old was an honor roll student, the MVP of the girls’ soccer team, and an active member of the track and field program. 

“Ava had a serious competitive drive,” Tiffany Stubbman, Ava’s former track and field coach, told LocalSYR. “She was one of my go-to athletes on the track and field team. She was someone I could count on at every single meet just because she was so fast and driven and had that competitive nature.”

Stubbman told the outlet that Ava balanced fun and serious work expertly. Ava’s Instagram contains photos of herself and her friends enjoying life. Ava’s friends posted tributes to her on Instagram. 

“They were almost always joking around at practice, but would also be able to be focused when we would need to perform and do our workouts and routines,” Stubbman said. “She was a great friend. She had a great personality. She was a spitfire.”

Thomas Fraher, Durgee Junior High’s principal, said that dealing with Ava’s death was the biggest challenge he’s faced in nearly three decades in the profession. “One of my students wasn’t here Friday and she won’t be back,” Thomas said.

Ava’s soccer coaches, Kathy Morse & Tom Hartshorn, described Ava as ‘fashionable’ for wearing dissimilar soccer shoes during matches. “Ava truly made an impact in her few years here with our program and we will miss her but she will always be in our heart,” they said. 

Ava’s mother didn’t pursue criminal charges against Ava’s father because she wanted to save the marriage

At the time of Ava’s death, Heather and Christopher were living apart but still married. Ava primarily lived with her father. 

Christopher stalked Heather in March 2022 and sent harassing messages to her two days before the shooting, but she didn’t pursue criminal charges against him – she hoped to save their marriage. Sheriff Shelley told CNY Central that Heather wanted the incidents recorded for divorce purposes.

The night before the murder-suicide, Christopher told Heather, “This is how it ends for us,” CNY Central reports. Unbeknownst to Heather, Christopher had purchased a shotgun on 4th January 2023.  

In areas beyond New York City in New York state, a gun permit isn’t required to buy a shotgun or a rifle. Sheriff Shelley said Christopher hadn’t owned a firearm before his early January purchase. 

Heather released a statement on behalf of the family. It read: “We want to begin by expressing our gratitude for the outpouring of love that we’ve received in the last 24 hours—it is the love and support from our community that will sustain us in the coming days.”

“To Ava’s friends, classmates, and teammates: please continue sharing photos and tributes to Ava. She loved each and every one of you, and we are grateful for the love you have shown her and our family.”

On 28th January 2023, friends and family attended Ava’s funeral service at Word of Life Assembly of God Church. The public has supported Ava’s family through prayer and donations on GoFundMe. At the time of writing, donations have surpassed the 50K target by nearly $19K. 

“I ask that you please consider blessing her mom, her family, teammates, and friends as they walk through this horrific tragedy,” the fundraiser’s organizer writes. “Any funds contributed will go to honoring and celebrating Ava’s life. Your contributions will go to supporting a mom who is left to grieve the loss of her only child, and her best friend.”

The Baldwinsville community will remember and honor Ava through the Ava Wood Memorial Scholarship

Ava’s family, the Baldwinsville Girls Soccer Booster Club, the Durgee Jr. High PTSA, and the Baldwinsville Cross Country/Track & Field Booster Club have established the Ava Wood Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship’s description reads:

“Once endowed, an annual scholarship will be awarded FOREVER in Ava’s name to a graduating senior from Baldwinsville High School based on criteria proposed by Ava’s family.”