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Random Violence Ends Teacher’s Acts of Kindness

March 21, 1996

MIDDLETOWN, N.J. (AP) _ At the school where she taught, Kathleen Weinstein was hailed as a woman who died the way she lived _ ``a teacher to the end.″

In the administration office at Thorne Middle School, a large banner was decorated with a big red heart. It read: ``You touched one at a time with your random acts of kindness.″

Weinstein, 45, of Tinton Falls, was abducted from a shopping plaza in Toms River last Thursday. She managed to activate a small tape recorder, in which she is heard pleading with and counseling her killer.

Her body was found Sunday in the woods in Berkeley Township, not far from where a teen-age boy allegedly carjacked her 1995 Toyota Camry. He was found driving her car the same day.

Sixth-grade science teacher Betty Conk said the mood among staff and the school’s 850 pupils Wednesday was one of anger, shock and sorrow.

``She was full of energy and always using it to do something for someone else,″ Conk said.

Even in the final minutes of Weinstein’s life, she tried to convince her young assailant to take her car _ not her life.

``You haven’t done anything yet. All you have to do is to let me go and take my car,″ Weinstein is heard saying on the secret 24-minute recording.

It was vintage Kathy Weinstein, friends say.

``When I heard what she was saying to that boy on the tape, I thought, `She was a teacher to the end,‴ said Eileen Largey, a guidance counselor at Thorne Middle School, where Weinstein taught for eight years. ``Me, I would have fainted, passed out and died on the spot.″

The tape enabled police to track down a suspect they identified only as M.L. of Berkeley Township. The boy, who turned 17 on Friday, was charged Tuesday with murder and carjacking.

He cannot face the death penalty because of his age.

Authorities say M.L. carjacked Weinstein because he wanted to steal a Camry like hers as a ``present″ for his birthday. He smothered her with her own coat, police said. The tape was hidden in the pocket.

``I knew he was a bad kid. I stayed away from him,″ said Brian Gregory, a junior at Toms River High School South, where M.L. had transferred days before the slaying. ``He just has a bad reputation for fighting and (using) drugs.″

But Anna Chantsri, who described herself as M.L.’s best friend, told the Asbury Park Press he is ``sweet and really innocent.″

``He wouldn’t hurt a fly,″ she said.

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