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Random Violence Ends Teacher’s Acts of Kindness

March 21, 1996

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) _ Kathleen Weinstein was a teacher who liked to reward students for their random acts of kindness.

Her life ended when she failed to talk a 16-year-old boy out of a random act of violence.

The 24-minute conservation Weinstein secretly recorded before she was smothered to death last Thursday showed the lengths she would go to to help others, her colleagues said.

``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 in Middletown, 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 have identified only as M.L. of Berkeley Township. The boy, who turned 17 on Friday, was charged Tuesday with murder and carjacking.

Authorities say M.L. carjacked Weinstein because he wanted to steal a 1995 Toyota Camry like hers as a ``present″ for his birthday. He smothered the special education teacher with her coat and dumped her body in the woods, police said.

Weinstein had managed to remove the tape from a recorder in her bag and slip it into her pocket before she died.

``Don’t you understand what kind of trouble you are going to get in?″ she is heard saying in a desperate attempt to get him to release her.

Fellow students said the suspect was trouble.

``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.″

Published reports said the suspect also was facing charges as a juvenile in Family Court for assaulting a police officer after a scuffle.

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.

Weinstein, on the other hand, was universally recognized as a teacher with a big heart who kept an eye out for others.

Under a program she started three years ago, students who performed good deeds earned a chance at a free lunch for two from a local fast food restaurants.

Some students also dealt with their grief by writing letters to her 6-year-old son, Daniel, said assistant principal James Ouellette.

There also was a tribute on the message sign on the school’s front lawn: ``Mrs. Weinstein, thanks for your random acts of kindness. We will remember you.″

By Wednesday, more than a dozen bouquets of flowers lay around the sign.

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