(Note from Erin: Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the Eckert family. In the nearly 100 deaths of holistic doctors I’ve reported on, I’ve never had to share about 2 killed at the same time. Click this link to read the full series. We will update the list shortly. We have such a heavy heart right now.)
At around 7:30 a.m. on March 15th, cops responded to a 911 call and found James Eckert, a 48-year-old chiropractor and ultramarathon runner in critical condition, and his wife, 50-year-old Lizette Eckert, also a chiropractor, dead from a gunshot wound. James later died at the hospital. (Autopsies would later reveal that both James and Lizette died of a single gunshot to the head.)
An 11-year-old boy was found after a two-hour manhunt and charged with second-degree murder. Officials have not provided the relationship between the boy and the victims.2
The couple were described as healers by friends; health-conscious chiropractors and runners, they left their practice in Portland, Maine, “to operate a small farm in Alton, where they raised cows, pigs, rabbits and chickens.”1 They were also devoted parents to their 15-year-old daughter and adoptive sons, 11- and 13-year-old brothers. We cannot imagine how their tiny New Hampshire community is dealing with this tragic loss.
“The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has released few details on the case, citing the confidentiality laws of the juvenile court system.
At a press conference last week, Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward was unable to comment on the boy’s connection to the victims, although friends of the family believe the alleged shooter was one of the Eckerts’ sons.
‘I think it goes without saying that this is an incredibly tragic incident with a child involved, a juvenile perpetrator involved and adult victims involved,’ Ward said.”1
The public has still not been told who made the 911 call, what kind of weapon was used, or how the 11-year-old was identified as a suspect. The child is believed to be the youngest person to ever face murder charges in the state’s history.
“Shortly after the shootings, prosecutors charged the boy with one count of second-degree murder and attempted murder. On Tuesday, the suspect was charged with another count of second-degree murder.”1
Alton Police Chief Ryan Heath said he was proud of Alton residents for coming together to aid the couple’s families, who flew in from across the country. The community helped find lodging for the relatives, plan funeral services and care for the Eckerts’ farm animals, “We are small so it affects all of us.”1
There had never been a call to the police from the Eckert home before and many of the couple’s friends say they didn’t notice any signs of trouble at home.
“While the victims’ families have shied from the media, friends and former clients have shared more details on the couple and their kids.
Some friends, in interviews with The Daily Beast and in public Facebook comments, said they believed the couple’s boys were adopted from Russia.”1
Former patient and friend, Margie Sayward, who originally connected with the couple when they ran a clinic in South Portland described them as “very kind people” and “pretty devout Catholics.” But Sayward and Lizette had bonded over adoption, too (Sayward has an adopted son), “I talked to her a lot about these two boys she was gonna adopt. She was excited about that.”1 Sayward also remarked that they were “passionate” about the health field, “I always felt welcome in their clinic. The people who worked with them were so friendly. It was just a good atmosphere to be in.”
Gertrude Hammond, who attended church with them said that the weekend before their deaths that they were at Mass, followed by the annual bingo night,
“’The boys are altar servers. They’re just an integral part of the parish,’ Hammond said, adding that the Eckert brothers ran around with dust pans, helping their older sister, who was sweeping during the bingo event.
The Rev. Sam Hollo, of Community Church of Alton, where members also knew the Eckerts, said they appeared to be a loving family. ‘Every indication we had is that Jim and his wife were a wonderful couple and very good parents from everything we know, and that adds to the shock of this.'”1
Former employee Rachel Flehinger said they loved life and were passionate about the community. “It’s a huge loss. We’re very dumbfounded by the way it happened.”1
Jim had trained for an ultramarathon and regularly competed in the Vermont 100 Endurance Race and Lizette was a “great role model and mentor”1 who according to friend, Rebecca Miller, just wanted to be a mom and loved to teach people “how to question traditional, conventional thought.”1
“Miller said that Lizette especially seemed content in New Hampshire, where she lived off her land and raised animals with her kids, who were homeschooled. The couple’s 15-year-old biological daughter, with whom Lizette was extremely close, had gotten a horse in recent years. ‘They were trying to live a different way, through like work and labor, a labor of love,’ Miller said of the family.
‘But who knows what kind of struggles she may have had with him,’ Miller said, referring to the couple’s 11-year-old son, who is the presumed shooter and was absent from the funeral. ‘She was so independent and strong, I don’t know if she would have reached out if stuff was going on. She’s pretty resourceful in her own way and stubborn.'”1
The tight-knit family did a lot together and supported one another together. Their loss will most assuredly be felt for a long time to come.
Funeral services for the Eckerts were held Friday at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, which was packed despite the weather and was largely an “upbeat celebration of Jim and Lizette’s life and their focus on family.”1
Our breaking hearts go out to their loved ones tonight. A GoFundMe was started for their children by Lizette’s mother. If you would like to donate, please do.
Erin Elizabeth, E Coast of Florida