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Shooting leaves two dead in Alton

11-year-old suspect in custody

March 21, 2019
ALTON — An 11-year-old has been taken into custody, allegedly as a result of a double homicide that occurred last Friday.

The shooting incident allegedly involved a juvenile who aimed a firearm at James and Lizette Eckert, both of whom were killed. Lizette predeceased James. James received critical care at a regional hospital but did not recover after receiving a gunshot to the head.

State and local officials could not elaborate on relational specifics, but they could note that the couple had adopted foster children.

Police responded to a 911 call at the Eckerts' home on Dobbins Way about 7:30 a.m. on a property near the Alton-New Durham line.

According to reports, Lizette Eckert, 50, was found dead on site of a gunshot wound.

James Eckert, 48, was critically injured with a gunshot wound, officials said. He was brought to Portsmouth Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead from a gunshot to the head.

A press release from the state noted, "Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Christopher J. Wagner, and Alton Police Chief Ryan L. Heath announce that the autopsy has been completed on Lizette Eckert, who was discovered deceased in Alton, New Hampshire on Friday, March 15, 2019."

That evening, the town hall hosted a press conference. State and local officials were cagey on releasing details at this point. Peppered by questions from Boston media reps, officials would not disclose the shooter's name, his relationship to the deceased, or on any type of motive. As of Tuesday, officials were not even able to release the gender of the shooter.

Local faith leaders summoned their inner angels to put forth words of support.

Rev. Sam Hallo, a local minister, told a Boston TV station, "The Lord is in His presence,

A clergyman from across town, St. Drexel priest Father Cole, expressed condolences. He said, "The reality reasonably has not set in." During Sunday's mass, he asked for congregants to offer prayers for the fallen.

State and local officials continue to investigate. One statement from the AG's office noted, "Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Jennie V. Duval, has determined that the manner of death was homicide. The cause of Ms. Eckert's death was a single gunshot wound to the head."

The document elaborated, "James Eckert was pronounced deceased late Friday, March 15, 2019. The autopsy for Mr. Eckert is scheduled for Monday, March 18, 2019." Results of these investigations were not available by deadline.

The official release concluded, "The investigation into the deaths of Lizette and James Eckert remains ongoing. No additional information is expected to be released today."

At the press conference, state officials, calling the incident "incredibly tragic," noted that the alleged shooter would face one count of homicide and a count of intended murder. With the additional fatality, there is a probability that the state will revise these charges.

The initial release from the Attorney General's office was about 50 words long. It referred to an "incident" with no mention of a firearm. These are sensitive matters, so we understand the value of discretion.

It has not been disclosed regarding the ownership of the gun. With the investigation ongoing, officials are not in a position to comment on potential intent.

Prior to capture, the accused juvenile supposedly escaped to the woods where he was apprehended, according to anecdotal reports.

The attorney general's office said in a press release that "since the alleged perpetrator is a juvenile, the law precludes any further information from being released."

As to the identity of the alleged shooter, this information was not available from the Attorney General's office. A staffer cited state statute, which protects the rights of juveniles. RSA 169-B:5-a notes, "All reports, evaluations and other records requested by the court from the department of health and human services, school districts, counselors, and guardians ad litem in proceedings under this chapter shall be filed with the court and all other parties at least 5 days prior to any hearing, unless the court sets a different deadline upon the request of any party or agency providing the information. Once filed with the court and given to all other parties, the report, evaluation or other record need not be refiled during the proceeding. Failure to comply with the provisions of this section shall not be grounds for dismissal of the petition."

The incident almost immediately lit up Facebook.

The Alton community town page (managed by residents and not town employees) consequently began deleting posts to prevent the dissemination of rumors and specifics that might be later deemed as misinformation - or compromise the privacy of the victims and their family.

Another consequence of the shooting was a lockdown of ACS, Prospect Mountain High SChool and the New Durham School. Although the incident was in Alton, it occurred near the Ridge, not too far from the New Durham town line.

The NDPD noted, via Facebook:

"This morning, the Alton Police Department responded to a report of a shooting incident in their town just over the New Durham town line. The incident was an active shooter situation, and I was one of the first officers on scene, followed by a mutual aid response from agencies from all over the region. The information provided indicated the armed subject was heading toward New Durham. A perimeter was established by involved law enforcement agencies in order to attempt to locate the subject while keeping residents safe who lived in the area of the incident in Alton and New Durham."

The post continued, "With the close proximity to the area of the incident and search area, the decision was made to place the New Durham Elementary School in lockdown until the situation was deemed under control. The incident occurred during the student drop off time, which can make a lockdown situation more complicated. Two officers, who responded from two of our mutual aid communities of Milton and Middleton, were assigned to secure the school and be a presence during this time.

ACS and Prospect were also under lockdown.

Moving forward, the community is seeking ways to help the survivors.

The Alton FB page notes:

"As the community grieves and heals together, we know that so many are looking for ways to help, and we are working to identify those avenues. We will continue to update this post as new information is added."

The moderated post continues, "In support of the Eckert family travel expenses, you can drop off a Visa gift card for groceries, gas card, dining card, sympathy card or a personal note in the Eckert Card Box at these Alton locations:

-The Circle Store

-The library

-The Senior Center

The post notes that the deadline for these donations is Monday, March 25.

Additionally, Dominick's Pizza Pasta and Things of Chichester will match donations made at their restaurant.

Cash or check donations to the family may now be dropped off at any TD Bank. The fund name is "CORY HALVORSEN/THE ECKERT FAMILY FUND. " Organizers offer a big thank you to Cory Halvorsen for the legwork on this effort to support a family in distress.

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