Jackson Township police trying to determine who pulled trigger. Northwest High School principal recalls both as 'honest, genuine kids.'

JACKSON TWP.  Police investigating the deaths of two teenagers late Friday are trying to determine whether the incident is the result of a double suicide or a murder-suicide, Jackson Police Chief Mark Brink said in a news release Saturday morning.

Canal Fulton and Lawrence Township police were called to check on the welfare of a 16-year-old Lawrence Township girl and a 17-year-old Canal Fulton boy. A Canal Fulton police officer found their bodies at 8:29 p.m. in a wooded area south of Portage Road and east of Akron Avenue in Jackson Township.

The girl was pronounced dead at the scene. The boy was taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2 a.m.

A news release from Northwest Local schools said both teens attended Northwest High School. Principal Larry Tausch said the girl was in the 10th grade, and the boy was in the 11th.

Both had suffered gunshot wounds to their heads, Brink said.

"Officers located a handgun at the scene, and their deaths are being investigated as a possible double suicide or a homicide-suicide," the chief said.

He declined to release further details.

Mike Shreffler, superintendent of Northwest Local Schools, released a statement Saturday morning saying that counselors would be at the school at 10 a.m. Saturday and again on Monday to "provide support to staff and students."

"The Northwest Local School District is heartbroken to report the loss of two of our high school students. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families during this difficult time," he said.

"I am asking that, at this time, you give the families space to grieve and respect their wishes. Please keep in mind that social media is not the place to get accurate information or to spread rumors." He asked that anyone seeking information ask instead at his office or Tausch's.

Tausch said he saw the two teens at a school hallway Friday.

"I spoke with them often. They were honest, genuine kids," he said.

Tausch said he has known the girl since he became principal at the middle school; she was in the sixth grade. He described her as "a quiet girl who kept to herself."

He said teachers have told him the boy had attended third grade at Northwest Local before moving to Florida. He returned to the area last year, attending Jackson High School last year, then returned to Northwest this year. Tausch said he had the same quiet demeanor as the girl.

When he saw the teens Friday, "They were shoulder to shoulder, walking close to one another." He believed they were dating one another.

The high school enrolls about 650, and the district totals about 2,000 students, Shreffler said.

He praised the outpouring of sympathy and support the community already has shown.

"We are so fortunate to live in Stark County and have the support that we have," he said, noting that the Stark County Educational Service Center, mental health board and Crisis Center were quick to assist after learning of the incident.

Jackson Township police and the Stark County Coroner's Officer continued to investigate the teens' deaths Saturday, Brink said, adding that his officers were assisted at the scene by the Jackson Township, Lawrence Township, Canal Fulton and New Franklin fire departments.

Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or lori.steineck@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @lsteineckREP