Police: Children saw mother murdered

February 4, 2008 12:49:36 PM PST
Grief counselors were on hand at Marie Durand Elementary School in Vineland today.

They were there to help both teachers and students cope with the death of a longtime and beloved teacher, 35-year-old Sharon Bortle.

Police say Bortle was killed yesterday afternoon when her estranged husband, 45-year-old Frank Bortle, shot her in the head.

Frank Bortle allegedly used his 20-gauge shotgun to fire a single shot at his estranged wife as the couple's two young children looked on.

Sharon Bortle had gone to her estranged husband's house to pick up her 9-year-old son. He ran to a neighbor's house for safety after the shotgun blast killed his mother instantly.

When police arrived, the couple's 4-year-old daughter was still strapped in her car seat inside the blood-soaked SUV.

Police say Frank Bortle shot himself in the face when police arrived.

He was transported to Cooper University Hospital where he remains in critical condition under police guard. He is expected to survive.

He has been charged with homicide and bail is set at $750,000.

The couple had a history of violence. According to police, on December 16th, 2007, Sharon Bortle came to the Vineland Police Department to report that she had been assaulted by her husband, Frank Bortle III. She reported that the assault had occurred on December 15th. She had a visible injury under her left eye.

Frank Bortle was arrested for simple assault. He was served with a temporary restraining order. Police seized 19 weapons from his home at 1514 Wheat Road.

Bortle was then released on bail pending a court hearing. He also surrendered his Firearms Purchasers ID Card.

On January 2, the restraining order was dismissed in Family Court. The criminal charges are still pending.

The weapon used in yesterday's shooting is not one of the weapons on the seizure list from December 16th. Police are trying to figure out how he got the 20-gauge shotgun allegedly used in the shooting.

Sharon Bortle taught fourth grade this year. She had taught first and third grade in the past. Her passion was writing, according to a Vineland School District spokesperson. She had written a childrens book and was planning to get it published.

The spokesperson described it as a tearful day at the elementary school. Some students were sent home they were so overwhelmed by grief.

A memorial service will be held at the school after Sharon Bortle is laid to rest.