SAN JOSE -- For 15 years, Sandy Padgett helped guide hundreds of students at the Harker School into young adulthood and onto college, leaving a lasting positive mark on many who graduated from the high achieving campus.
Those same students mourned her Tuesday, just a day after Redwood City police said her life ended violently inside her own home.
Harker's 72-year-old co-director of college counseling was shot to death by her husband who then attempted to take his own life, police said. It remained unclear Tuesday why the husband opened fire, striking her in the head, and then turned the gun himself.
Police have been tight-lipped so far but say officers went to the couple's newer, well-kept home on the 1700 block of Carleton Court around 12:50 a.m. Monday after getting word of an injured woman. They found Sandy Padgett dead and her 69-year-old husband wounded.
Officials have not released the husband's name, but public records showed she owned several properties with John Duncan Padgett, who turned 70 in February. Redwood City police Lt. Sean Hart said the husband remained in critical condition Tuesday with a gunshot wound to his head, adding that investigators so far have no motive for the rare outbreak of gun violence in the neighborhood. It was Redwood City's first homicide since 2010.
As authorities continued to piece together the shooting, mourning washed over Harker, a private K-12 prep school.
"Throughout her long career in independent education she guided countless students through the college counseling process and she was known for her deep knowledge of college counseling as well as her affection for the students," said Chris Nikoloff, head of school, in a statement. "The entire Harker community is grieving over the sudden loss of our longtime colleague."
Padgett came to Harker in 1998 in mid-stride of a career that included teaching on the Peninsula at San Carlos High School and work as a counselor at Palo Alto High School. Memories from alumni poured in Tuesday.
"I'm so grateful to have had Ms. Padgett as my college counselor; she put her faith in us ... and taught me how to really think about who I am, and how to express all of it into written words," said Will Chang, a 2012 Harker graduate who now attends college. "No words can express how shocked and sad I am."
The school had grief counseling available for the current students and staff.
No word was made public about memorial or funeral arrangements. An autopsy was performed Tuesday.
Meanwhile, there was no sign Tuesday of the fire trucks and police officers that swarmed the Redwood City neighborhood the day before. Neighbor Stu Ansaldo, 65, said he had no idea what could have prompted such violence between a quiet, well-educated couple. The only thing that seemed to stand out were Padgett's husband's back problems which were so severe they forced him to shuffle, doubled over nearly at a 45-degree angle, a walking cane in each hand.
"Maybe he couldn't stand the pain anymore," Ansaldo said. The husband, who spoke with a British accent, used to take regular walks around the neighborhood, but Ansaldo hadn't seen him in recent months.
The Padgett home, which they had rented for about five years, also showed no apparent signs of trouble. A newer model Honda with handicapped license plates was parked in the driveway. The landscaping was neat and the curtains open in a top floor window. But closer inspection revealed the outside lights were on, though it was midday, and a seal from the San Mateo County Coroner's Office was pasted on the front door. It said any person "entering these premises is guilty of a felony."
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.