YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Bergenfield schoolteacher and Dumont Board of Education member was stabbed and bludgeoned to death, and her estranged husband — accused of the brutal attack — is under police guard in the hospital after trying to kill himself.
Debra Shanley, 54, was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m., several hours after the attack a few hours earlier at their Garden Street home, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Her husband, 58-year-old Peter Shanley, will survive his injuries, the prosecutor said.
The couple was in the middle of a divorce, and Peter Shanley had been staying someplace else, a source close to the investigation told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
“Debbie,” a motorcyclist, had just become a member of the “Ladies of Harley,” sponsored by Bergen County Harley Davidson, based in Rochelle Park.
She had passed her safety ride on Saturday to officially become a member of the “Bergen County Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) and was “happy energetic and looking forward to the riding season,” an aquaintance told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. One of the first events, an all-female ride, is scheduled for May 7.
The group has scheduled a private meeting for tomorrow night.
Another friend said Debra was in “full biker gear” when she asked about the teacher’s safety.
“I remember asking her if she will be all right, but she was sure that her husband will not return to their house,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “Unfortunately, he did.”
A friend called Dumont police just after 5:30 Sunday night after she failed to show for a 9 a.m. get-together and several calls to her cellphone during the day went unanswered, Molinelli said.
Police “found Peter Shanley conscious and lying on the floor in a bedroom,” with a cut on his neck and a broken ankle, the prosecutor said.
Debra’s body was on the floor of an adjacent bedroom. She “appeared to have been bludgeoned and stabbed,” Molinelli said. She was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Peter Shanley is in stable condition in the surgical Intensive Care Unit at Hackensack University Medical Center, under police guard. His bail is $1.5 million and a first appearance is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Debra Shanley lived in Dumont most of her life and had been on the local school board for more than a decade — most recently as vice president. Although she was ousted in last year’s election, she was appointed to fill an unexpired term and was, essentially, running for her fifth term in this spring’s school elections.
She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from St. Peter’s College, as well as a Teaching Certificate – Secondary Business from Ramapo College.
Peter Shanley is a former Dumont public works employee.
They had two sons, Jason, who is in the US Air Force and Devin, who recently was graduated from Lincoln Technical Institute. Records show the family lived in the Garden Street ranch only four years.
“Mrs. Shanley was one of the few amazing teachers in Bergenfield High School that truly cared about the students,” said teenager Annie Zimbileva.
“I want everyone who knew her to remember her just the way she was — always smiling, shining with positivity, and energetic,” the young student added. “Her heart was always open to any student, teacher, or parent. Her laugh was the kind of laugh that made your day, and her advice always seemed to be right.”
Keep checking back with CLIFFVIEW PILOT for more updates on this tragic story. If you can offer any information about Debra or Peter, please contact Publisher/Editor Jerry DeMarco at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.