Ann Pabo didn't know how to make a race car out of wood.
But when her son, Connele, then a second-grader and Cub Scout, needed a Pinewood Derby car, she did her best.
The result - a too-light car with pieces facing backward - didn't deter the East Northport mother from cheering her son or attending his Scout meetings.
"She could have said, 'I can't make this car,' but she didn't," said Connele's former scout leader, Suzanne O'Connor of Northport. "She was there - always. She devoted everything to him. She wanted him to be happy."
Autopsies conducted Thursday by the Suffolk County medical examiner's office showed Pabo and Connele died from blunt force trauma. "He bludgeoned them to death," said Det. Sgt. Bruce Markgraf.
O'Connor, 50, said she got to know the mother and son well through camping trips, Scout picnics and other outings. "He was a lot like his mother," she said. "He was gentle and sweet."
She and others described Pabo as a dedicated mother who worked hard to provide for her son. "It wasn't an easy life for them," she said. "I think she was living on the bare minimum, but . . . her love for him was so strong."
Jackie Cytowicz, 33, whose son was friends with Connele, said Connele had spent holidays with her family.
She and O'Connor said Pabo often was searching for activities outside of the Laurel Road apartment for her son.
"She was always looking for a safe haven for him," O'Connor said.
While Pabo never spoke in detail about her long-term relationship with Maxwell, friends said, it was clear that it was troubled.
When Pabo took out an order of protection against Maxwell last year, Cytowicz said, Pabo seemed relieved by his absence.
Police said the order was issued after a June 25, 2009, argument. That order expired in June.
Candance Reeder, a librarian at the East Northport Library, said the family often visited the library together. Connele "would play computer games and do his work," she said. "The local kids are very upset."
Connele attended Bellerose Avenue School before moving to the sixth grade last year at East Northport Middle School, where students Thursday wrote in a memorial book for him.
"It's a collective heartbreak," said Northport-East Northport school district Superintendent Marylou McDermott. "Everyone imagines children they know and love, and it puts a sadness over the whole community. This is someone's son."
Counselor Kathy Rowe said Connele stood out with his polite, shy manners. "He was always respectful," Rowe said. "He loved his bike, and he loved to read."
This summer, he attended the school's four-day-a-week summer program, where he was working on his reading and math, Rowe said.
The school was to have counselors available for students Thursday and Friday.
A man at a Pabo family home declined to speak with a reporter Thursday. Messages left for other family members were not returned.