Over the weekend, tragedy struck the town of Alton, a small community on the southern edge of Lake Winnipesaukee. The New Hampshire Attorney General said an 11-year-old has been charged with murder in relation to a shooting that left two people dead.
Friday evening, on the second floor of Alton’s town hall, state and local law enforcement made a grim announcement: An 11-year-old had been charged with murder under juvenile laws in connection with a shooting that took place in a home in town earlier that day.
Just across the street, residents had been gathering since the afternoon at the Community Church of Alton as word of the shooting spread. Several said they were left dazed by the news.
“The suddenness of this is incredible,” said Pastor Sam Hollo said he knew the victims, 48-year-old James Eckert, and 50-year-old Lizette Eckert, who lived with their three children in a home in a wooded part of town.
“None of us really realized that there were troubles,” Hollo said. “And so it caught all of us by surprise, it’s very difficult at this point.”
Because the incident involves a child, the Attorney General’s Office said it’s prohibited by law from sharing much additional information about the case and some of the facts remain unclear, including whether the Eckerts and the alleged shooter were related.
Over the weekend friends of the Eckerts went to work setting up support for the family, including a bank account for donations. Cory Halverson is involved in the same soccer club that he said the Eckert family belonged to for five years. He said relatives have flown in to be with grieving family in Alton.
“They’ve spent a good part of the last couple days kind of trying to do things as normal as possible,” Halverson said. “I know that the daughter that plays for us was with some of her friends yesterday playing soccer, which is something that she enjoyed to do and that was something that she requested to do yesterday.”
The Eckerts lived on a large plot of land down a quiet road where they raised horses and other animals. Nancy Yeaton works at Clark’s Grain Store in Chichester where they’ve already seen half a dozen donations to go toward taking care of the Eckerts’ animals.
“We just discussed it last night and opened the account this morning,” Yeaton said. “They're neighbors and the community are looking for an avenue to help.”
At the church in Alton, Russ Sample said he was close with the victims. James Eckert was a chiropractor and well-known in town.
“We’ve just been here, gathered and praying for the family,” Sample said. “And Jim was a practitioner that many of us visited to help heal our bones for a long time.”
He said the nature of the allegations in this case have him thinking not just of the victims, but of the accused shooter as well, just an 11-year-old child.
“And somewhere this young boy has fallen through the cracks,” Sample said. “And we as a community need to rise right up so that there isn’t another young boy.”
As Alton waits for more details on the events of last week, Sample said he hopes the community will support young people who may be struggling with this news.