A mother who sent her children to the Connecticut daycare center of a woman accused of murdering her own children before committing suicide said Thursday she was shocked by the triple homicide suicide.
The woman attended a vigil for the murdered family outside their Danbury home Thursday night and refused to believe that Sonia Loja, 36, would strangle her three children.
“I can’t believe Sonia did this. I don’t believe what happened,” Nube Sucuzhanay, 33, told The Post.
“Sonia was a good person. She loved and cared for her children and was good with the children she cared for.”
Sucuzhanay said Loja came to the US from Ecuador about 15 years ago. Sucuzhanay entrusted Loja with her own two children and enrolled them in her nursery for seven years.
“I felt very comfortable leaving my children with Sonia,” she said. “[She was] just so good with kids and so much fun.”
Loja ran an illegal daycare center out of her home and told the parents of about 10 children she couldn’t watch them on Wednesday — the same day police believe she killed her own children, 12-year-old Junior Panjon, 10-year-old Joselyn Panjon, and 5-year-old Jonael Panjon. Loja then took her own life.
Loja allegedly strangled each child one by one before hanging herself in a shed in the backyard of her home, police said. Her husband and father of the children, Pedro Panjon, found the bodies when he returned home and passed out at the horrific discovery.
Sucuzhanay was one of about 50 mourners who gathered outside the home Thursday night for a vigil hosted by the area’s large Ecuadorian community. The mourners sang hymns, recited prayers and lit candles for over an hour.
They created a makeshift memorial to the murdered children by placing prayer candles, flowers, white balloons and a teddy bear on the doorstep of the house.
A young participant who attended St. Peter’s School with Joselyn from kindergarten to third grade said her late classmate was extremely intelligent and kind.
“Joselyn was a very smart, creative and helpful person,” says Katelyn Jimenez (11). “Joselyn was always there when you needed her. She would comfort anyone going through a difficult time.”
Katelyn said Joselyn excelled in math and helped her when she struggled with math equations.
“To me it seemed like she was living a good life,” Katelyn said. “She was very positive. She was great at art and music, but she was also very smart at math.”
“I feel sad,” she added. “She was a good classmate and friend.”
Tomas Vega, 31, was one of many mourners who felt compelled to join the vigil in support of the family, despite not knowing Loja or her children personally.
Vega, a father of two, could not comprehend Loja’s violent final act.
“Why would you kill yourself and take the lives of your three children?” asked Vega incredulously. “Imagine seeing your first child dead, then the next, then the third. Something really bad must have happened.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or going through a mental health crisis and live in New York City, call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis advice. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.