Hundreds mourn loss of Caruthers High School secretary

CARUTHERS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds of people silently showed their support for a Caruthers High School staff member who was tragically killed on Monday. Michelle Willis of Caruthers and another man, who hasn't yet been identified, both died when the man crashed into her home.

Sometimes a moment of silence resonates louder than words, and hundreds of students say they are hoping their prayers and thoughts are heard.

"She was almost like she was a counselor. If you needed help, she'd be there to talk. If you needed anything, she was there," said D.J. Barragan, a senior at Caruthers High School.

Families and friends who knew school secretary Michelle Willis mourned her sudden loss Tuesday night.

"It's just something I felt like we needed to do as a community of Caruthers and family and friends that knew her because it's really sad. And this is for her but it's not just for her because there was another person that passed away," said Amanda Stephens, a senior at Caruthers High School.

Willis was killed Monday morning when a car slammed into her home. Video from neighbors showed her home engulfed in flames from the crash. The man who was driving the truck hasn't been identified, and investigators still don't know why he smashed into her home.

"My children go to school here. Some of the people, we have generations of people that actually went to school with her, so it's a devastating thing to happen in a small community like this," said Toni Goodwin of Caruthers.

With candles lighting their path, those who knew Willis marched to her Caruthers home. A small memorial has formed in front of the charred wreckage -- a symbol of support for the Willis family.

"The family right now...that's what they need right now...a big support. We have to show them that we're there with the family, and we'll be there until the end," said Arturo Ferrer of Caruthers.

Friends have set up a memorial fund for the children Willis leaves behind. Donations can be dropped off at United Security Bank branches in Caruthers or Fresno. After-hours donations can be left in the night box or mailed directly to the Caruthers branch.

  • P.O. Box 247, Caruthers, CA 93609

  • Make donations payable to Brooke Stanley or Caleb Hal

  • Write "In Memory of Michelle Willis" in memo box
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