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Death of Napa teen Sasha Mufich inspires research

“Long live Sasha,” reads one side of the pink rubber bracelets on Amira Donnelly’s arm. “Forever 17,” reads the other.







Sasha Mufich buried in Napa

Michael Mufich and Amira Donnelly attend the funeral of their daughter Sasha Mufich in Napa on April 30. Sasha was 17 when she was murdered. Donnelly holds her daughter’s pink jacket in the photo.


Photography by Kristy Lee


The colorful stripes are just one reminder of her oldest daughter, Sasha Mufich. The 17-year-old Napa teen was killed April 13 on Riverside Drive in a gun battle. Aileen Villasenor, a 19-year-old Rohnert Park resident, also died in the shooting.

Now, the Mufich family has found another way to honor their daughter and sister. They have partnered with the Napa Valley Education Foundation to create the Sasha Ann Mufich Memorial Scholarship.

Donnelly described her daughter as a “socialite,” someone who wanted to connect with other people and considered her friends — and their families — part of her family.

“Sasha loved everyone … and had tons of friends,” Donnelly said.

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Her daughter was determined to help others, her mother said. “That’s why I wanted to start this scholarship, so she could continue to help her friends,” she said.







Sasha Mufich buried in Napa

Sasha Mufich’s siblings, Safia and Leo Donnelly, and Eavan Mufich, attend her funeral on April 30 at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa.


Photography by Kristy Lee


Mufich, who graduated from Valley Oak High School, was planning to attend beauty school in San Francisco and was “looking forward to starting the next phase of her education,” according to the scholarship announcement.

This scholarship is intended to “keep Sasha’s spirit alive by supporting students in achieving their educational goals.” The fund not only provides financial aid for higher education, “but also serves as a reminder of the profound impact one person can have on this world.”

The aim of the programme is to “inspire and motivate students to pursue their dreams and contribute to creating a safer and more compassionate society.”

Mufich was also a talented athlete, participating in gymnastics, soccer, wrestling and softball. And while she was good at sports, “I think she enjoyed the social aspect (of sports) more than the competition itself,” her mother said.







Sasha Mufich buried in Napa

The photo, taken April 30 during Mufich’s funeral, shows Pastor Katherine Frederick, Tomas Donnelly, Sasha Mufich’s brother Leo, Mufich’s grandmother Dixie Larson, and Camila and Olivia Bargenquest.


Photography by Kristy Lee


Donnelly said that because the investigation into the murders of Mufich and Villasenor is ongoing, she still does not know exactly what happened that night.

She and her daughter had been together earlier in the day, Donnelly said. But she added that she “didn’t say a word to me” about any circumstances that could have led to a violent confrontation.







Sasha Mufich.

Sasha Mufich


Uploaded photo


“I believe she was (on Riverside Drive) to protect her friends,” Donnelly said, but she’s not focusing on the details of the death now. “Nothing will bring her back. I just hope all three of them stay behind bars for the rest of their lives.”

The three are a man and two women who were arrested days after the attack on Riverside Drive.

John Richard Wesley Nicholson Jr., 22, of Vallejo, faces two counts of first-degree murder, as well as various special charges, including intentional discharge of a firearm. Jessica Whitten, 19, of Santa Rosa also faces two counts of first-degree murder and an accessory charge.

Judith Adolph, 19, of Rohnert Park was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a semi-automatic firearm and aiding and abetting the commission of a felony.

All three remain in the Napa County Jail without bail. Their next appearances are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Napa County Superior Court.

Donnelly said the Napa community has been supportive of her family, with about 600 people attending Mufich’s funeral service and other memorial events. Several local women who have also lost children were especially comforting, she noted.

The mother of three said she knows teenagers can be stubborn and that Sasha didn’t let anyone get in her way. “When she wanted to do something, she did it,” Donnelly recalls.







Sasha Mufich buried in Napa

Friends, family members and loved ones attended Sasha Mufich’s funeral on April 30 in Napa.


Photography by Kristy Lee


According to Donnelly, it’s important for parents to work on building close bonds with their teens and young adults. At the same time, young adults need to listen to their instincts, their gut feelings.

“If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t,” she said.

For Donnelly, the pink bracelets are both a reminder of her daughter and something tangible she can pass on to others. “I wear two in case I meet someone who wants one,” she said.

A GoFundMe fundraiser has already helped cover funeral costs, and some of that money will also go toward a new scholarship.

“(Mufich) is always on my mind,” her mother said, and doing something for her “is the only way to move forward.”

Reporter Jennifer Huffman can be reached at 707-256-2218 or [email protected]