Long Branch massacre — Candlelight vigil honors 4 lives cut short
WEST LONG BRANCH — Frigid temperatures were no match for hundreds of mourners who gathered at Franklin Lake Park Tuesday evening to honor the four victims of a deadly shooting on New Year's Eve inside a Long Branch home.
Most of the speakers at the candlelight vigil, including event organizer Shannon Nutley, had been close friends with 18-year-old Brittany Kologi, who, along with her parents Steven and Linda, and family friend Mary Schultz, were shot and killed about fifteen minutes before midnight late Sunday. Prosecutors have charged Brittany's 16-year-old brother, who they say got his hands on a semi-automatic rifle inside the home, with four counts of first-degree murder.
"They were just wonderful people. There's not enough words in the world to sum up how great they were," Nutley said of the Kologi family.
Nutley started the memorial by encouraging guests to smile and celebrate the lives of the victims, and not to cry, although she could not hold back tears herself.
"She lit up a room. She's the best person ever and I don't know how my life is going to be without her," she said of Brittany.
Rebecca Adekunle, who met Kologi in seventh grade, told the crowd her friend "loved with all her heart" and "would always be there for you ... other than when she was napping because Brittany loved to nap."
The comment triggered one of several bursts of laughter throughout the evening as friends recalled their memories of the victims.
"Brittany was raised by two amazing parents," Adekunle added. "You would never leave that house hungry, you would never leave that house bored."
Mike Schultz, the brother of victim Mary Schultz, took a moment to thank everyone for attending the event in below-freezing temperatures.
"We appreciate your prayers, your phone calls, and for putting together this quick candlelight vigil on behalf of both families." he said.
Another friend of Brittany's, Taylor Hills, described Schultz as a "sweet angel."
The accused shooter, who's being held at a youth detention center in Middlesex County, fired several rounds from a semi-automatic rifle into each victim, according to Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni. The suspect's brother and grandfather, and a young family friend, escaped the scene unharmed, he said.
The weapon had been "lawfully acquired" by a living member of the household, Gramiccioni said. The rifle contained a magazine that could hold 15 rounds.
The suspect is scheduled for an initial court appearance on Wednesday. His identity has not been revealed because he is a minor, but it's been widely reported in the media as Scott Kologi.
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