WHS English teacher killed

  • Written by Don Mann

Unthinkable for Woodinville

HockleyWith a murder suspect behind bars in King County Jail, Woodinville continues to weep.

This tragedy ranks atop the city’s darkest hours.

The idea that beloved Woodinville High School English teacher Prudence Hockley is gone remains surreal and inexplicable. How she left this world is horrifying.

From various accounts, cobbled together hastily on the tail end of a holiday season with school out of session, it seems the vibrant 15-year WHS mentor clearly was no easy “A.” Like a great teacher she pushed students to go beyond their perceived limits, challenged them to stretch themselves — perhaps sometimes in uncomfortable ways — and, like lovers of the language do, she worshipped the written word: the precise word at the proper time in the exact place, because that’s the really good stuff; that’s education.

Hockley made kids buck up and made them better, and they later loved her for it. Plus, her classroom was fun; she was a proud piece of work. Magnificent. It was her special gift.

The sudden, wildly unexpected and violent loss of “Hock,” as her kids called her, will surely be felt for a long, sad time. Maybe forever, in the minds of the many, many kids she touched in her very special and unique way.

That said, the grisly facts, as best can be determined, are as follows: Seattle Police, responded to a call at about 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve at her Phinney Ridge home on NW 74th Street. The 9-1-1 call was made by her 13-year-old daughter, who found her mother at the side of the house, unconscious, with an apparent blow to the head.

She told detectives she heard a loud thump. Neighbors later said the same.

According to Detective Jeff Kappel, the 55-year-old victim stepped outside her house to talk to her alleged boyfriend, later identified as Johnnie Lee Wiggins, 48, a convicted felon with a rap sheet, a one- time professional body-builder with whom Hockley apparently shared an interest in fitness.

According to Kappel, the suspect, familiar to Hockley’s daughter, was seen walking away and heading to his car, apparently to flee the scene.

Medics quickly transported Hockley to Harborview Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead early on Christmas day.

Homicide detectives made an arrest of the suspect on Wednesday, December 28, and an on-going investigation remains.

As of Dec. 29, the suspect has not yet been criminally charged.

Colleagues of Hockley were contacted but were not talking, a directive from the Northshore School District.

WHS Principal Kurt Criscione, however, issued the following statement:

“It’s with great sadness that I inform you that beloved AP English teacher Prudence Hockley died unexpectedly at her home on Dec. 24 ...

“The district Crisis Team will be at school throughout the week to help support students and staff members during this difficult time ... Ms.  Hockley was an extraordinary teacher who was passionate about learning, reading and writing.

“Known for her high expectations, she developed strong relationships with students and pushed them outside of their comfort zones to expand their learning. She will be forever remembered for her dynamic personality and teaching style.”

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