It was just five days before gunman Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on the congregation in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that the members of the small church welcomed him in under much different circumstances.
Though his attendance wasn't expected given his past troubles with his mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, who attends the church, the congregation still welcomed Kelley with open arms — some even thought he and his family were turning a corner.
“They thought, 'Oh, this is good. This is progress,'” Sutherland Springs resident Tambria Read told the Chronicle, noting Shields told her she was excited to see Kelley brought her grandchildren to the festival voluntarily.
Read went on to describe the church's attendants as “very loving” and “nonjudgmental,” so it's no surprise they were so open to welcoming Kelley and his kids.
“If [Kelley] had had concerns or issues and spoken with the clergy — they're nonjudgmental,” Read explained. “They would have helped him deal with his issues and helped him try to get focused.”
But none of that ended up mattering to the psychologically troubled 26-year-old shooter, who had reportedly sent threatening text messages to Shields not long before he attacked those gathered for the Sunday morning worship service.
Among those Kelley killed were eight members of a family that spanned three generations — the Holcombe family. As it turns out, Crystal Holcombe and two of her children were at the same festival Kelley attended just days before they were murdered:
As IJR previously reported, the Holcombe family has established a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise money to help offset the enormous funeral, travel, and counseling expenses surviving members are now facing.
So far, the page has raised more than half a million dollars.