Police believe UNH lecturer killed NC man, then self
Published: Monday, February 17, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 02:02
Eric Paul Engel, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, shot and killed himself Saturday, Feb. 15 in Florida after allegedly killing Aleksander “Lenny” Wysocki, 74, in North Carolina on Friday, Feb. 14.
An email announcing this information to the University of New Hampshire community from Mark Rubenstein, vice president of student and academic services, stated that Engel was a lecturer in the department of communication since August 2013.
A press release from the Cary, N.C. police department identified Engel as the suspect in the murder of Wysocki, who was described as a former family friend. It is believed that Engel shot Wysocki on the morning of Friday, Feb. 14 before going to Florida, where it is believed that he committed suicide.
“At this point we feel confident that there is an end to the Wysocki tragedy,” said Criminal Investigations Division Captain Don Hamilton of the Cary Police Department in the press release. “As we said earlier, we did not believe this was a random act, and based on evidence we cannot disclose at this point we are confident Engel is the man who shot Wysocki.”
“I can tell you that we’re not releasing anything related to their connection or possible motive,” Hamilton said.
According to his LinkedIn profile page, Engel finished his dissertation at the University of South Florida, earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in communication from Purdue University.
Engel was teaching three courses this semester in the communications department at UNH.
Zachary Croteau, a junior communications major, is a student in the Introduction to Language and Social Interaction course that was taught by Engel. Students in this course were met by counselors from the University of New Hampshire Counseling Center Monday morning.
“We’re all pretty freaked out,” Croteau said. “Just knowing that he had it on his mind. … We were just with him last Wednesday.”
Croteau described Engel as a nice guy.
“He was always very up, and looking to the future,” Croteau said. “I didn’t see any signs of anything dark.”
Stephanie Robinson, a sophomore communications major in the same class as Croteau, also said that she was shocked when she heard the news over the weekend.
“I personally loved him as a teacher,” she said. “I went in the first day and I absolutely fell in love with him as a teacher. … I was like, ‘I’m gonna get so much from this class.’”
Haley Pratt, a senior psychology major also in this class said that she immediately liked Engel’s class. “My sister and I were both in his class. … We really liked him,” she said.
Pratt said that Engel was different from other professors; she said that he handed out balls and stuffed animals for students to hold while he spoke on the first day of class.
Engel shared some of his personal interests with the class, Pratt said. “He told us he wanted to go sailing around the world.
“He always talked about how he was very anti-violence and against wars,” she said.
Croteau mentioned that Engel posted a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip on the course’s Blackboard page last week. The comic had a Valentine’s Day theme in which Calvin, the boy, tells Hobbes, the tiger, that he is making a Valentine for Susie, on which he writes, “Susie, I hate you. Drop dead. Calvin.”
“It’s almost too weird to be a coincidence,” Croteau said.
Lecturer in communication Joseph Terry shared an office with Engel in Horton Hall. Terry said that he was hired this summer shortly before Engel was hired and that they attended new faculty orientation together. Terry said that Engel was a kind and caring person who showed concern for his teaching and his students.
“It’s pretty shocking to say the least,” Terry said. Terry said that he had not seen Engel in about two or three weeks because the two had opposite schedules this semester; Engel’s courses were on Mondays and Wednesdays and Terry’s courses are on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“He seemed obviously to be very sensitive, very caring. … He chose his words very wisely,” Terry said. “He would do very kind things.”
Engel loved dogs and cats, according to Terry, which was a common interest for the two lecturers. Engel had cats, and Terry and his girlfriend have a dog. Terry’s dog was sick in the fall and “Eric showed a lot of concern,” Terry said.
On the Blackboard page for the Language and Social Interaction course, Engel posted personal information about himself as well as information about his academic and professional experience. He wrote, “I love animals but at present have just two cats. They’re both rescues. … I love gardening, cooking and eating (primarily pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan fare). I’ve a passion for words -- academically, professionally, and poetically.”
When Terry and his girlfriend met Engel in the fall, Terry said that his girlfriend “really, really liked Eric.”