Loved ones of six people slain by an off-duty deputy sheriff are planning their funerals and deciding what kind of memorial to place at the scene where they died.
Students returned to school Wednesday for the first time since the shooting, and people learned that the house where it happened would be demolished. The dead were all either current students or graduates of Crandon High School.
On Wednesday night, a candlelit procession in honor of the victims attracted hundreds of people who walked past the house and on through town.
“It is a symbol of the violence and a lot of pain and so we want to remove that from the area that it stands,” said Bill Farr, pastor of Praise Chapel Community Church. “We want to replace it with something that would honor those students and the parents and become a place where we can remember them.”
The house is owned by Paul Murray, the father of one of the victims, and he wants it torn down, Farr said, adding that city officials and others were trying to decide what kind of memorial should go on that corner in this woodsy city of 2,000 people.
Tyler Peterson, 20, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, burst into a pizza party at his ex-girlfriend’s home early Sunday and opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle.
Killed were his ex-girlfriend Jordanne Murray, 18, as well as Lindsey Stahl, 14, Aaron Smith, 20, Bradley Schultz, 20, Lianna Thomas, 18, and Katrina McCorkle, 18. Charlie Neitzel, 21, survived and was in fair condition at a hospital on Wednesday.
Authorities said Peterson, who also was a part-time Crandon police officer, was cornered at a friend’s home hours later, and he was wounded in the arm before shooting himself to death.
Push for mental exam bill
The state doesn’t require psychological tests to become a police officer, though departments can opt to impose them. Peterson did not undergo psychological testing.
A group of state lawmakers on Wednesday announced plans for a bill mandating the exams for anyone applying to be a police officer.
“While no amount of screening and testing can guarantee that horrible events ... will be prevented, a required psychological examination will provide law enforcement administrators with assessment tools that may not be accessible to them,” said Rep. Ann Hraychuck, a Democrat.
School Superintendent Richard Peters said most of the nearly 1,000 students in the district were back in class Wednesday.
Counselors from Crandon and surrounding areas were on hand, he said, and while classes were held, the focus was on helping the students deal with what has happened.
“It was to give students a chance to talk and to begin the healing process,” he said.
Teachers read a statement to the students during first period, he said.
Sophomore Andrew Higgins, 16, said it told students it was a tragedy and counseling was available.
Higgins said he used to date Lianna Thomas and it was hard to return to school.
“It just feels weird because in a small town everyone knows each other, lots of people are related, so you come back and see all their faces and makes it kinda sad,” he said.
First funeral expected Friday
Farr said he walked through the school’s hallways and the students seemed to be handling it well.
Four or five funerals had been scheduled, Farr said, and plans called for having one a day, either at a local church or Crandon’s only funeral home. The first was expected to be Friday.
The victims’ families have met with the family of Peterson, whose funeral would likely be last out of respect for the other families.
Farr said he expected the residents — many of whom used to leave their doors open and ignition keys in their car — will be more guarded and keep a closer eye on their kids.
“Families aren’t going to be as easy to let their kids stay at someone’s house overnight,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more contact with their children.”