ALTON, N.H. — An 11-year-old has been charged with the shooting death of one person and attempted murder of a second inside an Alton home Friday morning.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward identified the victims as Lizette Eckert, 50, who was found dead at the scene, and James Eckert, 48, who is at Portsmouth Regional Hospital in critical condition. Ward said the state’s juvenile laws prohibited him from providing the name or gender of the suspect or saying how the child knew the victims. He also declined to identify the relationship between the victims.
The suspect has been charged under juvenile law with one count of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Ward declined to say whether his office was considering certifying the juvenile an adult, but state law requires a person to be at least 13 years old to be certified as an adult for murder and other serious offenses.
The police received a 911 call from 76 Dobbins Way at about 7:30 a.m., Ward said. The juvenile was apprehended two hours later after a search of the woods surrounding the home by the Alton Police Department and the Belknap Regional Special Operations Group, Ward said.
Ward declined to describe the gun used in the shooting or say how the juvenile had access to it. Nor would he say whether there were other people in the house.
The shooting occurred in a housing development surrounded by woods and few neighbors. An Alton police officer blocked access to the development throughout the day.
Pastor Samuel Hollo of the Community Church of Alton, who said he knows James Eckert well, opened his church Friday to community members seeking support and will do so all weekend. He said the Eckerts were married and had three children: twin boys, age 11, who he said were adopted, and an older daughter. He said the children were homeschooled.
Hollo said James Eckert had a chiropractic office in Alton. He called Eckert “a wonderful man of god and a wonderful guy.” “And his wife was a gem, as good as they come,” he added.
The family belongs to St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Alton. The Rev. Robert Cole said the family never misses a Sunday. “You could just depend on them,” he said. “It was a priority for them. They are a beautiful family.”
Members of the parish gathered at the church Friday night for prayer and support. Cole said he will also hold a holy hour on Sunday from 2 to 3 p.m. for anyone who wants to offer personal prayers in a quiet setting.
Friday afternoon, even as few details had emerged, residents of the region seemed shaken by the news.
Marcie Hyslop of nearby Gilmanton, N.H., carries a concealed gun and believes strongly in the Second Amendment. She and her husband, parents to a 4-year-old, hunt and have several guns at home, all of themlocked in a gun cabinet. The hunting tradition is so strong in their family they bought their son a lifetime hunting and fishing license on his first birthday.
“I am not anti-gun,” she said. “But when you have an 11-year-old having access to a gun, that’s just not right.”
Leo Belanger stopped by the Alton Circle Grocery to check his lottery tickets for a winner on his way home to Antrim yesterday. “The first thing I thought was, ‘This kid needs help,’ ” he said. “Why would he do something like that?”
John Scott has lived in Alton for 20 years and owned Trudy’s Thrift Shop in town for 30 years. “Things like that don’t happen in this town,” he said.
An autopsy for Lizette Eckert is tentatively scheduled for Saturday. “This is an incredibly tragic incident with a child involved,” Ward said.
He asked that anyone with information about the case contact State Police Detective Sergeant William Bright at 603-223-4381.