SAUGUS (CBSLA) — Inside of the living room of a home that could be mistaken for any other on the block is a shrine to a 14-year-old boy — a loving child who cared deeply for his family and friends and adored SpongeBob SquarePants.
A shooting at Saugus High School last November left three students dead — including Dominic Blackwell, whose family has been struggling since then to cope with the senseless tragedy that took their son.
“It actually feels like it gets harder,” Frank Blackwell, Dominic’s father, said. “Everything we do, all the firsts — Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays — it’s all a lot harder now that we don’t have Dominic.”
The day Dominic was killed started out like any other day. He arrived at school Nov. 14 with the rest of his classmates, but unlike all those days before, a student had brought a gun to school and, just before 7:40 a.m., opened fire.
“I was actually on the way to work when she let me know there was some police activity at the school and so after that we went to go find Dominic, and we couldn’t find him,” Frank said. “And a lot of the other children were getting released at Central Park. We were searching and waiting for the busloads of kids getting off, and he never got off of the bus. And we finally found out that he was at Henry Mayo in surgery.”
The teen killer ultimately turned the gun on himself, but not before he killed another student — 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger — and injured three others.
Sheriff’s detectives were still investigating the motive, saying there was “no smoking gun” on why the shooter did it. Just last month, detectives served a second warrant at the shooter’s home, but did not reveal what if any evidence was seized. For now, it seems that the victims were selected at random.
“No child should ever have to go through anything like this,” Frank said. “Just like his brothers shouldn’t have to go through this, his peers shouldn’t have to go through this either. It’s an unfortunate evil act that should have never, ever happened.”
And while the investigation continues, Dominic’s family has focused on healing and caring for their three other sons — the youngest just 7-months-old.
“We don’t have a choice,” Nancy Blackwell, Dominic’s mother, said. “We have to be strong for them. We have to be OK, so that they’re OK.”
But being strong does not mean the family doesn’t struggle with the loss of a child whose presence and smile could fill a room.
“It’s very quiet here now,” Nancy said. “He was the loudest, craziest one of the four of them. I think evenings are the hardest. I can kind of pretend and go through my day as if it didn’t happen, pretend he’s at school, but definitely the evenings are the hardest when it’s just the five of us now instead of the six of us.”
But as heartbroken as the family is at the loss of their son and brother, Dominic’s family knows that his memory and legacy will live on.
“We want him to be remembered as being a loving, caring, compassionate boy,” Frank said.
Detectives do not believe the gunman had an accomplice, but they are still investigating. No charges have been filed in the case.