Neighbor, former North Syracuse employee in shock after teacher charged with murder

CICERO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - The Cicero community still in shock after learning that a North Syracuse teacher has been accused of shooting and killing his brother-in-law.

NewsChannel 9 spoke with James Ball’s next door neighbor on Chinkapin Circle who say this is not the man that they knew.

When Margaret Lech looks off her back porch, she's used to seeing her neighbor, Ball.

“Always waved, always said hello, would play horse shoes in his backyard,” Lech said.

When she saw his picture on TV and hearing what he had allegedly done, she never thought it could happen right behind her house.

Ronald Balducci, a former employee at the North Syracuse school district, echoed Lech’s shock when hearing the news about Ball.

Balducci retired earlier this year and he worked with Ball for almost a decade.

“Everyone loved him. He was a little more serious than most teachers, very polite, he was always inviting or friendly,” Balducci said.

55-year-old Ball is charged with second-degree murder and is accused of shooting and killing his brother-in-law, 40-year-old Christopher Ross.

Police say the two got into a fight after a night out drinking that resulted in multiple shots fired.

To Margaret, her neighbor will always be “Mr. Ball,” the Smith Road Elementary teacher and all-around good guy.

“My friend's daughter was over here to play with one of the girls and she says ‘Mr. Ball lives behind you?’ and I said 'yeah' and she said "Oh my God he's one of the best teachers,’” Lech recalled.

She says she hopes he's cleared of the charges, so this “so-called nightmare can end.” Lech says she would welcome him with open arms to be back in the neighborhood again.

The district’s superintendent saying she and the community are "shocked." She declined to speak on camera, but she did say her primary concern right now is to help students, staff and faculty.

Counselors were on hand at Smith Road and C-NS High School today.

Balducci thinks it’ll take a while for the community to heal because he was the “face of school.”

Ball will be in Onondaga County Court on Thursday for a bail hearing. He is being held at the Justice Center jail.

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