Overgrown Courtyard Hides Unspeakable Tragedy

Memorial covered in weeds in Media Center courtyard

Photo by Kelly DiPietro

Memorial covered in weeds in Media Center courtyard

Rebecca Rakowitz and Kelly DiPietro

Tragedy, mystery, and weeds are locked up in the Media Center courtyard. Unbeknownst to most, a hidden memorial is tucked away in one of the corners.  One person who knew about it, though, was security guard Frank Russo Jr., who unlocked the entrance to the courtyard and escorted us through. Russo pointed us towards a pile of debris where he remembered the memorial being. After rummaging through the overgrowth, we uncovered the mysterious memorial.

The stone reads, “Dedicated in Memory of Marian Moser and Matthew Zajkowski by The Class of 1963.”

Confused and scratching our heads, we searched for an explanation, but neither faculty nor Google were of much help, so we ended up at the Ferguson Library consulting the archives of The Stamford  Advocate.

Matthew Zajkowski II, a resident of Glenbrook and a senior at the time, died on Thursday, May 2, 1963. Zajkowski died at Stamford Hospital after a brief illness. Three days later his mother, father, and three siblings buried their beloved son and brother.

Marian Moser, though, did not die of natural causes. She was the victim of an unimaginable tragedy. She and her sister were brutally murdered by the man who is supposed to love them unconditionally, and on Christmas day, no less.

Moser was shot and killed by her father in December of 1960, during her sophomore year at Stamford High School. Moser’s father, Lawrence G. Moser, was a 48-year-old with a previous murder record. After a failed marriage at age 18, Lawrence shot and killed his brother-in-law and served an eight year prison sentence.

Fast forward 30 years, and we find this convicted murderer with a new wife and family. Lawrence and Moser’s mother, Helen, had a volatile relationship, and were fighting over the possibility of a divorce at the time of the tragedy. Lawrence and Helen were living in separate homes, and after going out for Christmas dinner, Moser and her parents returned to Lawrence’s home so her sister, Charlotte Moser, a graduate of SHS and a freshman at the University of Connecticut, could pack her things and go live with her mother.

The two girls went inside while Lawrence and Helen stayed in the car. During a heated argument, Lawrence pulled out a gun and threatened to kill Helen if she filed for a divorce. With no further words, he left Helen in the car, went to the kitchen where Moser and Charlotte were, and ended their lives. The two died of gunshot wounds to the head.

Charlotte Moser (left) in the Media Center's copy of the 1960 yearbook which bears a handwritten record of her brutal death. Marian Moser is not pictured in her yearbook.
Photo by Kelly DiPietro
Charlotte Moser (left) in the Media Center’s copy of the 1960 yearbook which bears a handwritten record of her brutal death. Marian Moser is not pictured in her yearbook.

As if this wasn’t enough, Lawrence then went on an acid pouring spree. He proceeded to pour hydrofluoric acid, which is typically used for glass etching, on Helen’s face and the face of two female neighbors that he suspected were helping Helen prepare for the separation. One of the women’s husbands, who witnessed the assault, suffered nonfatal gunshot wounds to the thigh and mouth.

While trying to make a speedy getaway from the crime scene, Lawrence drove his car into a snowbank and had to continue his journey on foot. By this point, a manhunt with over 50 men searching had begun. Stamford Police Captain and Department Historian Thomas Lombardo was young at the time, but his father was a detective and retired police captain. Lombardo says there was no such thing as overtime in those days, and that “only a skeleton staff was on regular duty for Christmas.” He says the entire police department was called back for the manhunt.  A state trooper and special policemen eventually found Lawrence in the Long Ridge and Chestnut Hill Road area. They started to question him, and after finding out that they were cops, Lawrence ran away, shot, and killed himself. The Christmas Day Tragedy had reached its end.

Moser and her sister were laid to rest four days later amongst family, friends, and fellow Black Knights. The only person unable to attend was their mother, as she was still at Stamford Hospital recovering from her severe burns.

The fates of these two Black Knights are tragic, and perhaps what is even more tragic is that very few people in this generation had any knowledge of their deaths.  The next time you are walking down these halls that Zajkowski and Moser once walked, counting down the seconds until graduation, spare a moment to think of those two who never made it to that milestone.


Read our editorial about the tragedy here.