ELLENBORO - The shooting deaths of Fred and Dixie Spencer and their younger daughter sent ripples through the area as family, relatives, friends and coworkers sought to come to grips with the slaying.
The Spencers were found shot to death Monday evening. A male juvenile suspect related to the victims was in custody, according to the Doddridge County Sheriff's Department, with three charges of first-degree homicide pending. The Charleston Daily Mail identified the suspect as the Spencers' teenage son Joseph Spencer.
Rick Coffman, Doddridge County superintendent of schools, said faculty and staff were notified of the incident Monday evening and advised of a meeting the following morning. Coffman said when he walked into the meeting five minutes before its start, everyone was in attendance.
"All the teachers. All the faculty. All the substitutes. They were all there willing to listen and wanting to help get through this."
The Spencers had roots spread throughout the area. Fred Spencer's father was a doctor with a family medical practice in Ellenboro. Fred Spencer, a UPS pilot, was married to Dixie Spencer, a graduate of Harrisville High School and a science teacher at Ritchie County Middle School. The Spencers' children attended school in Doddridge County.
Coffman said professional counselors and the local ministerial association had been exceptional in assisting students and faculty deal with the situation.
"They made a significant difference in getting us through this difficult time." he said. "I am grateful to the point words can't describe."
Coffman said the grief was compounded by the suicide of a Harrison County teen, who was familiar to many students in Doddridge County, as well as Dixie Spencer's presence as a Ritchie County educator.
"All three counties are suffering," he said. "It's very difficult situation."
Ritchie County Middle School Principal Michael Dotson said staff and students have handled the loss well. Dotson said some teachers, with whom Spencer was particularly close, were having a difficult time.
Dotson said Dixie Spencer had taught at the school for four years.
"She was very dedicated," he said. "Willing to volunteer."
Dotson said Spencer was the faculty senate chairman and member of the county's technical team.
He described her as a "go-to" person.
"She could figure things out very quickly," he said.
Dotson, who's been at the school for seven years, said one of Spencer's most popular science lessons was on the skeletal system. As part of the assignment students were to build skeletons using any material they could find.
"The kids took off and ran with it," Dotson said. "It was very unique."
Dotson said some kids used pipe cleaners, others would use milk jugs for skulls and create 6-foot replicas from pipe. All the models were hung in Spencer's room.
"She wasn't judging them so much as giving them an opportunity to be creative."
Dotson said the school has planned a small ceremony for students and faculty for Spencer on Friday. Coffman said officials have offered the family the use of Doddridge County school facilities for a memorial service.
Dotson also said school officials will contribute to a fund that has been established for the Spencers' remaining children.