LEWISBORO, N.Y. - In the aftermath of the tragic event that took place Monday night in Cross River, in which a family of four died in what police are saying was a murder-suicide, area clergy, law enforcement and mental health professionals are stepping up to help the community heal.
Police were called to the home at 2 Lambert Ridge late Tuesday afternoon for a welfare check when they discovered the bodies of Samuel Friedlander, 50, his wife, Amy Friedlander, 46, and their two children, Molly Friedlander, 10 and Gregory Friedlander, 8.
The couple had been going through a divorce and Lewisboro Police Chief Frank Secret said the department had responded to a domestic violence complaint at the residence back in 2006.
“In my 29 years on the job I’ve never seen anything like this,” Secret said. “We live in a town where everybody knows everybody and this has had such a broad impact. It reaches so many, which is way it is so devastating.”
Lewisboro Town Councilman Peter DeLucia said help is being made available for those trying to cope with the tragedy.
“When I found out about this tragic event I was in the hospital at my daughter’s bedside who, thank God, was recovering well from surgery,” he said. “Perhaps that's why this news is even more unfathomable to me. I know children are resilient, but I hope that families will not hesitate to take advantage of the help that is being made available to them. “
Dr. Grant E. Mitchell, Westchester County Commissioner of Community Mental Health and a Lewisboro resident, has organized a critical incident team that includes mental health professionals and individuals with experience in providing support and referrals to professionals in the community who can help. Mitchell said residents can call 914-995-5236 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and mental health professionals will be prepared to assist them.
Dr. Gary Altheim, a clinical psychologist in South Salem, said it’s important for the community members to pull together and lean on each other by discussing the matter.
“We have to come together instantly,” he said. “It’s a holistic thing for the community. There’s no room for politics or bureaucracy. No one likes to deal with death or divorce, but you have to deal with it in way that is developmentally appropriate with children.”
Altheim said every child is different, so how the discussion is approached should be based on the child’s personality.
“It’s a very individual thing,” he said. “You have to know where the child is at."
Chip Andrus, pastor for the South Salem Presbyterian Church, has set up his church as a sanctuary for anyone who wants to stop by and talk about the tragedy.
“I am available for counseling or pastoral care,” he said. “I've posted signs on the doors of the church and I'll be around if anyone needs me. South Salem Church is open and is a place for healing and prayer.”
In a statement issued by the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, Superintendent Dr. Paul Kreutzer said that the district is communicating with parents in the building and encouraging them to talk with their children about how they are feeling. He said any parent who has questions or concerns can contact the main office for assistance.
On Wednesday, the building crisis team at the Lewisboro Elementary School and the district crisis team were providing support to students, parents and staff to grieve and cope with the tragedy on an as-needed basis. Kreutzer said the support would be provided for as long as necessary.
“We are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of these two students, and we wish to extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the students’ family and friends during this difficult time,” Kreutzer said. “Our community is truly grief-stricken over this horrific news and we ask that the media respect the privacy of our students and staff as we mourn the loss of two of our family members.”
All schools operated on a regular schedule on Wednesday.
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