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Former Red Lake superintendent dies

Stuart Desjarlait, superintendent of the Red Lake (Minn.) High School when student Jeffrey Weise shot and killed nine people and then himself March 21, 2005, was laid to rest Thursday after a funeral in the Red Lake school gym.

Desjarlait, 59, died Saturday in Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

A native of Red Lake, he was superintendant of his high school alma mater from 2001 until 2007, when he retired for health reasons.

After duty in the U.S. Army from 1972-77, including a tour in South Korea, Desjarlait spent his career working in Red Lake schools.

He is survived by his wife, Roxanne, two daughters, a son and four stepsons.

It was obvious how deeply the shooting, which killed 10, including six students and a teacher, and injured several other students, wounded Desjarlait.

He didn't enjoy the media attention that suddenly inundated his close-knit American Indian community and school, the center of the Red Lake Indian Reservation. He took three weeks leave that spring to help deal with the strain.

Shortly after the shooting, Desjarlait's high school principal suffered a heart attack. Desjarlait had little doubt it was because of stress from the shooting, he said in 2006.

Desjarlait was in a classroom with students when Weise started firing. He used a student's cell phone to call 911 while Weise fired a round into the classroom door being held shut by a student.

The bullet didn't go through, and Weise went on to other targets. Five students and a teacher were killed by Weise, who had killed two others in his home earlier.

Some criticized him for taking a leave of absence, but Desjarlait told Minnesota Public Radio in 2006 that he just reached the end of his strength.

Many students stayed away from school for weeks, and one or two teachers

didn't return. "For me, it was hard to realize just where I was going with this, because I was busy, busy, busy," Desjarlait told MPR. "I've got to thank my wife for finally sitting me down and saying, 'Hey, hey, let's talk,' you know. I can imagine what others are going through because I went through that myself. I stayed up all night and was sitting in a chair and just started crying, you know. I know what they're going through."

"This is going to go on," Desjarlait said. "It's not going to stop on such and such a day, you know. You could have, in August, somebody finally collapsing, or crashing. We just got to be prepared for it."

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to