Teacher murdered in Dumont

A teacher was found slain in her New Jersey home, and her husband is the main suspect.

April 12, 2010 2:54:51 PM PDT
According to the Bergen County prosecutor, Debra Shanley was supposed to meet with her boyfriend Sunday morning. When she didn't show and she didn't answer her phone, he grew worried and called police. Turns out, his worst fears were true.

"I was crying last night because they were such nice people. It was a shock," neighbor Chris Stylianou said.

Neighbors are in mourning over the discovery of the body of 54-year old Debra Shanley in a bedroom of her Garden Street home Sunday night. The beloved teacher and community volunteer had been beaten and stabbed, allegedly by her estranged husband Peter Shanley.

"She was always talking about her husband in class. He seemed like such a nice guy, like they were a perfect match," student Matt Dobrovolsky said.

Debra Shanley apparently wasn't telling her students at Bergenfield High School everything. Sources tell Eyewitness News that she and her husband were getting divorced and she was dating another man. That was news to her neighbors in Dumont, who remember how likeable and helpful Peter was.

"Something must have set him off because he's not like that. The guy was a pillar of the town. He really was," Armand DiVite said.

Police say that Peter, a Dumont public works employee, tried to kill himself after beating his wife to death. But prosecutors say he will survive his neck wound and broken ankle to face murder charges.

"Words can't describe how terrible this is. It's a shock and a great sadness," Bergenfield Superintendent Dr. Michael Kuchar said.

"She had a way of putting the students at ease and the kids who needed someone to talk to, she could talk to them," Vicki Carroll said.

Debra taught business classes at Bergenfield High School. She was on the Dumont Board of Education for the last 13 years. She was a popular teacher, known for mentoring students, more than 800 of whom joined a Facebook page in her memory.

"I couldn't believe this had happened to someone I knew, we knew," senior Jared Cardenas said.

Her estranged husband due in court on Tuesday. It was unclear if he'll be able to make it. He remained still under police guard at Hackensack University Medical Center.

The couple has two sons in their 20s and a young granddaughter. One son lived in the family home, but he was not home on Sunday.