MERRILLVILLE | A longtime Gary teacher was found dead in her Merrillville home late Wednesday, the victim of an apparent homicide, according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Anna Schulz, 80, of 2500 block of West 58th Place, sustained trauma to the neck, according to the coroner's report. Coroner's investigators were dispatched to the scene at 9:18 p.m., and Schulz was pronounced dead at 9:55 p.m.
Merrillville police are searching for Schulz's silver Cadillac DeVille, which was taken from the driveway of her residence. The vehicle with an Indiana license plate number of 348BMR is believed to be occupied by the suspect or suspects in the homicide, police said.
The incident occurred blocks away from the home of Town Councilman Andy Sylwestrowicz.
"Things like this happen all over," but people don't expect them to occur "at your doorstep," Sylwestrowicz said.
He said he knew Schulz well.
"Our sons were friends," said Sylwestrowicz, who described Schulz as a polite person and "a nice woman" in the community.
Gary school officials said Schulz was a teacher for more than 30 years and currently taught special education to students with mild disabilities at Lew Wallace High School.
Lew Wallace Principal Lucille Upshaw said it was a "terrible shock," and she called Schulz a beautiful person inside and out with the ability to build a special relationship with her students.
Edmund Fraire, director of special education for the Gary Community School Corp., said the district was saddened to hear of her death.
"My heart goes out to her friends and family," he said.
Fraire said he and Schulz had joked at the end of the school year about her retirement but he said she told him she "simply wasn't ready to retire" yet.
"She had planned to return in the fall. She always made a point of giving her graduating students some kind of gift," he said. Fraire also said Schulz had a career in real estate, and sometimes talked about her experiences in that career field.
Bashir Masoodi, a teacher consultant for blind students in Gary schools who was a friend of Schulz, said Schulz was held in high esteem by teachers and students and she did many things to assist students academically and personally.
"She would dig into her pocket to help a student out," he said.
Gary teachers union President Carlos Tolliver said Schulz's death will be a loss to the district and to the community.
"She was a fine, fine teacher, dedicated to her craft and her children. She will be missed," he said.
One of Schulz's neighbors, who declined to provide his name, said Schulz enjoyed talking about her students to those in the community.
"It's a shock to the neighborhood," he said of Schulz's death.
Schulz had been a member of Altrusa International Inc. of the Indiana Dunes, a community service club that provides resources and services to enrich the lives of individuals within the community.
Denise Swinehart, secretary and former club president, said Schulz had been a member since 1976 and was president from 1990 to 1992.
"I knew she was over 65, but I don't think any of us had any idea that she was 80 years old," Swinehart said. "She was always very friendly to everyone, and she liked to keep things running smoothly. We had a meeting (Wednesday) night, and she was supposed to be there at 5:30 p.m. She didn't show up. Someone also called her about 4:30 p.m. to remind her of the meeting, but she never answered."