Adopted boy charged with killing parents
AN 11-year-old boy has been charged with second-degree murder, accused of killing his adoptive parents at their secluded farmhouse.
James "Jim" Eckert, 48 and his 50-year-old wife Lizette, both chiropractors who lived with their three children in the small town of Alton in the US state of New Hampshire, died on March 15 after being shot in the head.
Police quickly arrested the suspect in the woods near the property and confirmed he was a juvenile. Now it's been alleged by people who know the family that it's the Eckerts' 11-year-old son, adopted from Russia a decade ago, who has been charged with the killings.
Authorities have shared little information about the case with the public given the age of the suspect, but a pastor and friend of the Eckerts, Reverand Sam Hollo told NBC Boston he understood it was the youngest of their two sons, both adopted from Russia, who killed them.
The Eckerts also have a biological daughter, their eldest child.
"Two of the boys, one of whom perpetrated that, have been adopted and they have a daughter as well," Reverend Hollo said.
"Everybody who knows them, because of love for them, are helping in any way they can."
Questions now hang over Alton, a tiny town of 5000 people on Lake Winnipesaukee.
"My first reaction was wondering how did he get the gun or guns," local Bill Bezich told NBC Boston.
On the morning of the incident, a 911 call was made to report shots fired at the property on Dobbins Way, where the Eckerts kept chickens and pigs and homeschooled their children.
Transcripts from police radio describe "The suspected shooter … running off into the woods. He's wearing a bright, bright blue shirt with pyjama pants and he is an 11-year-old."
Lizette was dead by the time officers arrived. Jim was rushed to hospital but did not survive his injuries. Both had suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
The Eckerts, who met at chiropractic college and married in 1997, adopted their two boys from Russia aged two and four around 2010, the Boston Globe reports.
In 2012 they packed up their life in the coastal town of Portland, Maine, and moved their family about 90 minutes inland to Alton.
Friends described the youngest boy to the Boston Globe as happy, but quiet.
According to the Globe, the Eckerts had been experiencing mounting financial difficulties and racked up hundreds of thousands in debt from credit cards, student loans and unpaid mortgage repayments on their former home in Maine. An audit by the IRS of their former chiropractic business had left them with a $100,000 bill, which led to years of battling the government and creditors over the debt.
A former neighbour of the Eckerts in Maine, who asked not to be named, told the Globe the family had become more isolated prior to the move to Alton. The neighbour said the children regularly wandered unsupervised and the youngest boy often cried.
An obituary for the Eckerts described Jim as an "avid runner" who competed in ultra-marathons across the US. It said Lizette "loved being a mum to her three children."
The investigation is ongoing.