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Prominent Cheshire teacher mourned as state and local police investigate death

Prominent Cheshire teacher mourned as state and local police investigate death

CHESHIRE — State police on Thursday identified the missing person found dead near the intersection of Marion and Mixville roads as a local resident and Cheshire High School teacher.

The body of Megumi Yamamoto, 47, was found in the area Wednesday night. Yamamoto was Cheshire High School English department chairwoman and 2011 Cheshire teacher of the year, School Superintendent Jeffrey Solan said.

“Understandably, after hearing this deeply unsettling news, Cheshire High School and our entire school community are grieving,” Solan said in a statement.

The state police major crimes unit is investigating the death, with assistance from local police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Officers were at the scene for several hours Thursday.

“Detectives on scene will continue to conduct a canvass of the (neighborhood) in hopes of identifying any witnesses who can aid investigators in determining how Yamamoto arrived to the area where she was found,” state police said.

Officials said there is no danger to the public.

At about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, state police were seen at 1292 Notch Road, which is located less than a half mile from the crime scene. The home was listed as the address for Megumi Yamamoto in divorce documents filed in Meriden Superior Court. Yamamoto also owns a nearby home at 250 Mixville Road with her husband Leonard S. Fritz, who filed for divorce in August.  

Yamamoto had a two-decade career at the high school.

Cathy Hellreich, Board of Education chairwoman, said her daughter had AP English with Yamamoto. Hellreich said her daughter, now graduated, was impressed with Yamamoto’s interest in each student and her willingness to discuss their ideas.

“As a parent, she was the teacher you want your kid to have,” Hellreich said.

Ralph Zingarella, a former Cheshire High School social studies teacher and department chairman, said the news of Yamamoto’s death “wrecked his day” on Thursday. He described her as “the nicest, kindest, most intelligent woman you can imagine” and a “wonderful friend.” The two worked together as department heads at the high school.

“Any parent would want their kid to have had her as a teacher,” Zingarella said. “She never found anything wrong with any kid. Every kid was a good kid. Every kid had something valuable to add to the world.”

Yamamoto was chair of the children and youth religious education committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden.

She was also a Boulder Knoll farm member and was a part of the community supported agriculture program.

In blog posts this summer, Yamamoto shared her struggles with depression and anger through essays and poetry.

Hellreich said the district was responding to the loss with “all hands on deck.”

Solan notified high school parents of Yamamoto’s death on Thursday. He said counselors from the school district as well as Cheshire Social Services would be available for students over the next several days.

“It is incredibly painful to lose a member of our school family,” Solan wrote in his release to parents. “We are grateful that our community can lean on one another for support and that our extended community has made themselves available in this challenging time. I know you will join us in keeping Ms. Yamamoto’s family in your thoughts.”