Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
Students at Stratford Northwestern arrived to school on Thursday dressed in blue to pay tribute to their slain friend and classmate Nicole Wagler.
It was the colour of the young Milverton woman’s eyes.
Other students used the school’s culinary classroom – a space Wagler enthusiastically spent much of her time – to bake chocolate chip cookies, one of the 17-year-old’s favourite snacks.
Northwestern principal, Martin Ritsma, described the actions as a beautiful show of respect from members of a school community who are still reeling from the shocking shootings that occurred north of the city in the village of Milverton Tuesday night.
“Students can be so solid in situations like this; it’s incredible,” he said. “We have some young men and women here who are very connected to Nicole. She was a loved friend.”
Police have charged 23-year-old Michael Schweitzer of Milverton with first degree murder in Wagler’s death. He is also facing an attempted murder charge for the shooting of Tyler Baker, 22, who remains in hospital in London in critical condition.
Schweitzer appeared briefly in court in Stratford via video Friday morning. He is expected to appear again by video on Dec. 20.
Emergency services responded to a 911 call at about 10 p.m. at 11 Edward St. There they found Wagler, who had already succumb to her injuries, and Baker. Schweitzer was arrested by Perth County Ontario Provincial Police near the residence.
Few other details about what exactly happened that night have been released due to a court-ordered publication ban.
Residents of the Edward Street neighbourhood called the home, which was reportedly shared by Schweitzer and Baker, a “party house,” and said there has been conflict in the past between the homeowner and at least one of the other neighbours.
“There were a lot of parties, with more than just alcohol,” said one neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous.
Wagler listed both Baker and Schweitzer as friends on her Facebook page. The men’s Facebook pages identify them as members of the class of 2007 at Northwestern.
By Thursday, dozens of tributes to Wagler had been posted on two Facebook memorial pages by those who remembered the teen as “a beautiful angel” with an endearing smile and a love of life.
Wagler, a Grade 12 student, was a member of the school’s wrestling team and had competed in a meet Nov. 30 in St. Thomas.
A posting on the school’s website by the wrestling team’s coaches described Wagler as someone with quiet determination and a will to win.
“She also supported her fellow teammates during competition and never complained,” they said.
Wagler was also very active with the school’s culinary arts program.
Culinary teacher Paul Finkelstein said Wagler was an “infectious spirit” who was kind and accepting of others.
She was also very protective of her friends and family, he added, especially her younger brother Sam, who started at the school in Grade 9 this year.
“She loved him and talked about him all the time,” he said, noting Wagler even brought her brother around the school to introduce him to teachers. “He was such a part of her life.”
Given the teen’s desire for adventure, Finkelstein said he regrets that Wagler was unable to travel to Nunavut with a group of culinary students two years ago. She would have been an excellent representative of the school and region, he added.
Members of the Avon Maitland District School Board’s Tragic Event Response Support Team attended the school on Wednesday to provide support and counselling to students and staff. The school’s own councillors and other community agencies were also on hand.
Support was also provided at Milverton Public school to assist any young students who may have been upset by the police activity in the village.
Many students didn’t learn about the news until they arrived at school Wednesday, and those who wished to leave and go home were given permission.
Ritsma said the school would do its best to accommodate everyone as they take time to heal.
Ritsma added he spoke briefly with Wagler’s family on Wednesday, and that out of respect for them, the school will hold off holding any sort of memorial until a later date.
“We’re a family here, and we’re going to get through this as a collective group,” he said.
Police ask anyone with information about the crime to call the provincial police criminal investigation branch at 1-888-310-1122, or their nearest police service, or leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
–With files from The Record and Listowel Banner