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Mother's Day homicide shocks Wolfeboro

Students and friends grieve the loss of Stacey Burns

WOLFEBORO POLICE DEPARTMENT officers have been on watch at the Burns residence at 146 North Main St. since the discovery of Stacey Burnsí body on Motherís Day morning, last Sunday, May 10. (Elissa Paquette photo) Elissa Paquette. (click for larger version)
May 14, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Rescue sirens wailed just before 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 10, Mothers' Day, as police and fire personnel rushed to respond to a 911 call from the Burns residence on 146 North Main St. Upon arrival, they discovered Stacey A. Burns, age 41, mother of five, and Carpenter Elementary School nurse, dead of multiple stab wounds.

Her two oldest children, in the house at the time of the call along with four other friends, stood by as their home became an official crime scene. As police began their investigation, the news quickly spread through town. Hockey moms, lacrosse parents, and teammates of the two older children gathered across the street to stare in disbelief, horror and sorrow at the unfolding scene.

Police quickly cordoned off the area with yellow tape, which eventually extended down the street into the neighbor's driveway, and stood watch along the road into the evening, as a New Hampshire State Police crime investigation team began to assemble at the Wolfeboro Police Department.

On Monday morning Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas A. Andrew performed an autopsy on the victim and "determined the cause of death as stab wounds and the manner of death as homicide," according to a statement released jointly by Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Frederick Booth and Wolfeboro Police Chief Stuart Chase. No other details of the crime scene have been provided and no arrests have been made as of press time.

As of Tuesday. May 12, dozens of people had been interviewed, including Burns' former husband, Edward Burns, Jr., and a forensic team is scouring the home and grounds for clues. The investigation is expected to continue at least through Thursday, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin. No suspects have been named, though Strelzin stated, "I have no information that would indicate the public is at risk as a result of this incident, but it's early on."

Meanwhile, with three of the Burns' children attending Carpenter Elementary School, two others at the Kingswood Middle and High Schools, and Burns' position as the nurse at Carpenter, the impact of her murder has been widespread and deep. Jan Brooks, Carpenter School principal, says that Burns, who served as "a counselor, nurturer, and parent" to the students, was known for dispensing "tender loving care" in all her interactions with students. One parent said sadly that his young daughter touched base with Burns almost daily and would return to her classroom with a reassuring cough drop.

Brooks says that nurse Cheryl McCullough, who was on duty at Carpenter one day a week, will increase her time to five days a week, so children will have a familiar person on hand.

All the Wolfeboro schools have counseling services in place for grieving classmates, and a bank account has been set up by the Carpenter and Crescent Lake Elementary Schools' Parent Teacher Organization at Citizen's Bank in Wolfeboro to support the children, who are staying with a family friend.

Wolfeboro's Welfare Director Sue Benson has also set up an account at Ocean Bank to aid the Burns family and has helped organize a benefit dinner this Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at All Saints Church (see story on page A3).

Laurie McLaughlin, a friend who shared in the trials of being a single mom, said their sons were the same age and have been friends since grade school. "I can't even comprehend this," she said. "It's unbelievable. Stacey was a well-loved, friendly, charming, genuine person and a terrific mother. All the kids were active, and we would pass each other constantly when driving our children to their various activities. We laughed about being Mom's taxi." McLaughlin adds, "She was a ray of sunshine."

All is quiet at the cheerful-looking yellow house with the flag moving in the spring breezes, the child's slide in the back yard, and the basketball hoop at the top of the driveway, as investigators in blue uniforms wearing blue slippered shoes walk the grounds and move through the house.

Across the street, gifts of white daisies, coral Gerberas and red roses have been lying in a row on the grass between the sidewalk and the street since Sunday. And there are tea candles in brown paper bags marked with the message, "God Bless You All, with love, St. Katherine Drexel parishioners."

Until the police find answers to the mystery of Stacey Burn's death, speculation abounds.

A memorial service for Stacey Burns is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Friday, May 15, at St. Katherine Drexel Church on Route 28 in Alton. Baker Gagne Funeral Home of Wolfeboro is in charge of funeral arrangements.

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