It was a school day filled with sadness for the 1,300 students who attend Essex High School. They're mourning the death of freshman Gunnar Schumacher.
"You try and be empathetic, sympathetic, you're caring, and you also recognize that for many young people this is the first time they have experienced loss, and certainly a loss of this magnitude," principal Robert Reardon said.
Police say Gunnar's father, Ludwig "Sonny" Schumacher, 49, killed his 14-year-old son before taking his own life. Schumacher was a former longtime, high-ranking member of the Vermont Guard.
Principal Robert Reardon attended each of Gunnar's classes Thursday. But for those who knew the smart student-athlete, it didn't ease the pain.
"I've never seen so many people crying in one place before," said Zack Miller, a junior. "It was really difficult."
School officials were aware of problems within the Schumacher home, but say when Gunnar's father said his son would be absent Tuesday and Wednesday, it did not raise red flags.
"He called him out, a voice message, and said he would be returning Thursday due to family situations," Reardon said.
"There was a taking of a human life and we'll do everything possible to determine the circumstances around that death." Essex Police Chief Brad LaRose said.
LaRose says the investigation has now uncovered evidence of possible domestic violence. Sonny Schumacher was going through a bitter divorce with his wife. And court papers reveal allegations that Schumacher abused her and their kids, physically attacking Gunnar and flipping furniture on multiple occasions.
"There was no complaint of domestic violence ever made to the police department," LaRose said.
The allegations were handled in family court. But an Essex police officer served Schumacher with a temporary relief from abuse order back in July.
Police now say Schumacher left a lengthy suicide letter and addressed it to law enforcement, allegedly detailing what drove him to kill himself and his son. But police are not sharing that information with the public.
"It's something that we want to discuss in detail with the family when they are ready," LaRose said.
As for Gunnar's classmates left grieving, they say this tragedy has taught them a heartbreaking lesson.
"Call your loved ones, text them, go home and give them a big hug, because you never know how good you have it until it's gone," Miller said.
School counselors are on hand to help students and staff members deal with this tragedy. The principal says his biggest concern is getting everyone the help they need before the holiday break.
But the police investigation, the chief says it's far from over. Gunnar's autopsy was completed Thursday, but police will not release his cause of death until toxicology results are back in two to three weeks.