Newburyport MA Sept 21 2017
The typical ebb and flow inside the Newburyport courthouse Tuesday morning was shattered as word filtered throughout the building that a longtime court officer had died unexpectedly hours earlier.
Rachel Hassett, 41, of Bradford worked as a Haverhill District Court officer for 12 years and had checked herself into a Methuen hospital complaining of headaches the night before, according to head court officer Michele Gaeta. Hassett died at the hospital.
Haverhill District Court moved to the Newburyport building earlier this year as renovations are done to the Haverhill building.
“Everyone is in a state of shock because it happened so quickly and she was so young and full of life,” Gaeta said, soon after a moment of silence was observed inside Haverhill District Court.
As word circulated around the courthouse regarding Hassett’s death, the decision was made to delay the start of sessions and honor her life. Tears fell as court officers, probation officers, assistant district attorneys, defense lawyers and anyone who had worked with Hassett entered Courtroom 2 for the brief ceremony.
Before the moment of silence, Haverhill District Court Judge Stephen Abany informed the overflowing crowd inside the courtroom of Hassett’s death. Standing next to Abany were fellow judges Peter Doyle, Patricia Dowling and Mary McCabe.
Abany said the court had “suffered a great loss” and added that her death was like losing a family member.
“You see their lives unfold,” Abany said.
There were many hugs afterward and more tears once Abany concluded his remarks and people bowed their heads in silence.
Gaeta said Hassett loved animals, having volunteered at an area shelter, and she cared for two dogs and cats of her own at home. Hassett started her career as a blue-shirted security guard at Lawrence District Court before her promotion to a white-shirted court officer in Newburyport. She then transferred to Haverhill District Court, where she worked for more than a decade.
“She loved her job,” Gaeta said.
In addition to her love of animals, Hassett was an avid runner, having competed in a 5K road race in Haverhill just last weekend, Gaeta said.