Sunday, June 25, 2006

Shocked residents get 'feelings out' about slashings

Franklyn Duzant, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Shocked residents get 'feelings out' about slashings

Shocked residents get 'feelings out' about slashings
About 75 seek grief counseling after the gruesome deaths of a mother and son in Seminole.

Sandra Pedicini | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted June 19, 2006

Residents still reeling after a neighbor beheaded his wife inside their home and slashed their son to death in a neighbor's yard met with grief counselors Sunday night to deal with their anguish.

"It sort of let me get my feelings out about how he died," said Sally Zouain, 10, a friend of Nico Duzant, who was slain the day he turned 11.

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Father's Day was a somber occasion for residents of the Greenwood Lakes subdivision. About 75 people sought counseling at Greenwood Lakes Middle School, two days after Franklyn Duzant went on a rampage wielding a samurai sword.

Counselors helped parents who were feeling emotions including anger, shock, grief, helplessness and worry about how Nico's violent death could affect their children, Seminole County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said.

Meanwhile, new details about the 40-year-old suspect emerged Sunday, including that Nico was his adopted son and that he served in the Army during the Persian Gulf War, according to a longtime family friend.

Karen Arsenault, 51, of Sanford painted a picture of a loving family but one in which both spouses had medical problems. Franklyn Duzant suffered from arthritis and back problems, which he attributed to the war, she said.

"He said all his health problems were from Desert Storm," said Arsenault, who brought flowers to the Duzant home. "He felt like he may have got exposed to some chemicals somehow."

More recently, she said, he had had a tumor removed from his neck.

Evangeline "Gigi" Duzant, his wife, suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome and was in "excruciating" pain, Arsenault said.

Evangeline Duzant, 52, had adopted Nico from "a very poor family in Alaska . . . a mother who gave up her children," Arsenault said. Franklyn Duzant later adopted the boy as well.

Arsenault said she didn't know whether the family had financial troubles. Franklyn wasn't working, she said, and she didn't think Evangeline was either.

"Frankie was not the type of person who would talk about his personal problems," Arsenault said.

Instead, she said, he was a "social butterfly" who once brought her Kentucky Fried Chicken after her foot surgery in 2002 so she wouldn't have to cook. Arsenault said he adored his son, calling the boy "my man" and taking him fishing and skating.

"I just want everyone to know he wasn't a monster," Arsenault said.

Duzant came from a "very upscale" family, Arsenault said, and many family members live in New England and along the East Coast.

On Sunday afternoon, Arsenault picked up a baseball left at a makeshift memorial outside the Duzant house.

"Nico loved sports, I'll tell you," she said, before making the sign of the cross.

Christine Detuccio, a neighbor who was next door with her children and saw Nico's body after he was killed, said she has trouble sleeping.

That's not unusual, said Dr. Alan Keck, an Altamonte Springs psychologist.

The neighborhood is likely to be suffering for quite some time -- especially the adults who witnessed Nico's death, and children, Keck said.

"It really does affect the whole community," he said. "It makes everybody feel vulnerable and on edge."

Elementary-school teacher Julie Smith, who visited the memorial containing stuffed animals, flowers and a "happy birthday" balloon for Nico, said: "You see your neighbors, and it's just blank looks."

Adults who witnessed the vicious attack could suffer from flashbacks and feel heightened senses of fear, anxiety, irritability and sleep problems, Keck said.

They may even feel some guilt, wondering whether they could have done something to stop the killing or pick up on any cues that something was wrong, he said.

Children are especially vulnerable to problems such as nightmares and anxiety -- particularly the fear that something bad could happen to them, too.

"I expect the schools will be dealing with the fallout for months to come," Keck said.

Hoeppner said she became tearful at the counseling session as she listened to some of the parents' stories.

"They're dealing with their own loss," she said. "Now they have to explain to the children."

But, she said, "there is a sense of peace he [Nico] is with his mother and he is in a safe place. If you can take away that from an experience like this, they're going to do just fine."

Duzant, facing charges of premeditated murder, remained hospitalized Sunday at Orlando Regional Medical Center with injuries he sustained.

"He's been sedated for the most part," Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Dennis Lemma said. "There has not been a great opportunity to talk to him."

Jeannette Rivera-Lyles and Amy C. Rippel of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Sandra Pedicini can be reached at or 407-322-7669.

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