Students returned to school today in Ballston Spa, New York after a family of three, including a seventh-grader, died in a double murder-suicide in the Saratoga County community.
Police say 46-year-old Steven Jones shot his 43-year-old wife Jennifer and 12-year-old daughter Emma before shooting himself. "We've lost a 12-year old student, I think in the most unfathomable of ways."
Ballston Spa Central School District Superintendent Ken Slentz spoke with Newschannel 13 after it was revealed a seventh-grader at Ballston Spa Middle School had been shot to death by her own father in the family's home. "I can't imagine what our kids are going through. Emma's, friends for example. Classmates, schoolmates. We'll all feel this."
The TV station recorded Ballston Spa Police Chief Dave Bush assuring village residents at a Sunday afternoon press conference. "This incident is a double murder and suicide and there is no safety concern for the community."
Emma was a popular and academically talented student. An email to parents from the middle school Sunday afternoon expressed shock and said a crisis team had been working all weekend to ensure supports would be in place for students returning to school Monday morning. Stuart Williams is the district's Coordinator of Community Relations. "We delayed the school opening this morning for one hour so that the crisis teams were able to get into school early on, have meetings before the school day began, meeting with both the staff as well as other counselors who became available from the high school and some of the areas school districts, so they were prepared when the students arrived at school at 8:30. During the first class period the principal went on the public address system and made the announcement to the whole school to inform them that they indeed did lose one of their classmates and that there were various supports available for them throughout the day."
Williams said teachers led classroom discussions about the tragedy. Other avenues of intervention were also offered. "The school is working on trying to put together a vigil for the student. It's not determined at this point in time but they are working on plans for that so there will be a public recognition and a ceremony where people will have a chance to get together and again grieve and pay their respects."
The district said later Monday that a vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the football stadium on Garrett Rd. The district says students, parents and members of the community are welcome to attend.
New York State Police did not immediately respond to a request for new information.
Jones hadn't reported to his job at GlobalFoundries for a few days. Emma hadn't been to school. When police went to Jones' home at 723 Adams Circle Friday afternoon to do a "welfare check" they say they saw a man in the living room "obviously dead."
After officers forced their way into the house they found the bodies of Jones' wife and daughter in separate bedrooms. Police described the weapon involved as ”a long gun."
Global Foundries, which did not respond to a request for comment, said earlier it would provide counseling services for any employee in need.
Police have not offered a motive. They declined to talk about what may have precipitated the violence, whether there were any signs of a struggle or whether the weapon was legally owned. They added they had not dealt with any problems at the home in the past.