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Student Charged in Teacher’s Death

April 25, 1998

EDINBORO, Pa. (AP) _ A student shot and killed a teacher chaperoning an eighth-grade graduation dance and wounded three others before the banquet hall owner captured him outside, authorities said.

Andrew Wurst, a 14-year-old student at Parker Middle School was charged as an adult this morning with criminal homicide, three counts each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, along with gun and drug charges.

About 240 students had attended the dance with the theme, ``I’ve Had the Time of My Life.″ Sobbing girls in satin dresses and terrified boys in neckties huddled together outside the hall after the shooting. Some hid in a closet when the shooting broke out.

Science teacher John Gillette, 48, was killed Friday night with a gunshot to the head. The dance was being held at Nick’s Place, about two miles north of Edinboro, in northwest Pennsylvania.

State police said the boy was carrying a .25-caliber handgun and a small amount of marijuana.

Gillette was shot on a patio in the front of the hall, then the shooter walked inside and fired several shots before leaving through a rear exit, state police spokesman Mark Zaleski said.

Hall owner James Strand, armed with a shotgun, captured the boy in a field behind the building, Zaleski said.

The student had mentioned that he was going to make the dance ``memorable,″ an unidentified student told the Morning News of Erie.

Student Shane Rock said he saw the boy with the gun shoot another student.

``I didn’t see the shot but I heard it, and then another,″ said Lucien Haury, another Parker student. ``About 10 or 12 of us then piled into a closet.″

The shooting occurred just as the dance was breaking up about 10 p.m. Edinboro is about 100 miles north of Pittsburgh.

Two 14-year-old boys were wounded by the gunfire and treated at Saint Vincent Health Center. One had an abdominal wound, the other had a leg wound and both were treated and released, said Jane Sicker, a nursing supervisor.

A female teacher was grazed by a bullet and did not need medical treatment, authorities said.

The victim was a married father of three children who once coached high school football. In his youth he was a local high school football star and champion discus thrower. Gillette had taught for 27 years and recently began thinking about retiring, said band teacher Dennis Kitchen.

``He was really dedicated,″ Kitchen said. ``He’s the one that started these dances in the first place.″

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