Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Funeral held for 6 slain family members in Texas

By Michael Graczyk, Associated Press

Published: Wed, July 16 7:39 p.m. MDT

 Cassidy Stay, center, is comforted as she watches the caskets of her family be loaded into waiting hearses outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after a funeral service for her family Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Houston. Slaying victims Stephen Stay, 39, his 34-year-old wife, Katie, and their four youngest children were shot to death last week in their suburban Houston home. The oldest child Cassidy, 15, survived the attack by playing dead, called police and identified her uncle, 33-year-old Ronald Lee Haskell, as the gunman.

Cassidy Stay, center, is comforted as she watches the caskets of her family be loaded into waiting hearses outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after a funeral service for her family Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Houston. Slaying victims Stephen Stay, 39, his 34-year-old wife, Katie, and their four youngest children were shot to death last week in their suburban Houston home. The oldest child Cassidy, 15, survived the attack by playing dead, called police and identified her uncle, 33-year-old Ronald Lee Haskell, as the gunman.

(David J. Phillip, Associated Press)

SPRING, Texas — Six white caskets containing the bodies of a suburban Houston couple and four of their five children were wheeled into a church Wednesday for funeral services not far from where the family was gunned down at their home a week ago.

Stephen Stay, 39, his wife Katie, 34, and their four youngest children were being buried in a private ceremony after services at their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It's a difficult reason that's brought us together today," said Bishop Scott McBride, who presided over the 90-minute funeral service. "It wouldn't be right if I tell you I don't ache in my heart and we don't feel pain and feel the loss."

The couple's 15-year-old daughter, Cassidy, who survived a gunshot wound by playing dead, sat in the front row with grandparents and other relatives, just a few feet from the caskets topped with sprays of flowers. Poster-size photos of her smiling parents and siblings looked back at her and more than 1,000 people attending the service.

Katie Stay's father, Roger Lyon, said in an invocation that the service was a celebration of Stephen and Katie's family and he prayed that "some good come out of this seemingly senseless tragedy."

"We are thankful for all the things they did for us," he said.

In a description of his loved ones' lives, Randy Cousins, an uncle, said the extended family was grateful for support from "friends, family and people we have never met."

"If there's one thing we've learned as a family, it is that the world is a good place," Cousins said. "If you watch the news all the time, you might not remember that."

"Families are forever," Jeff Stay, one of Stephen's brothers, said, his voice halting. "We know we will meet them again."

Cassidy Stay called police and identified her aunt's ex-husband, Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, as the gunman. Haskell had been divorced from Katie Stay's sister and records show he had a history of domestic violence. The family was shot when they refused to divulge his ex-wife's whereabouts, authorities said.

Haskell was arrested a few hours later after a police standoff and now faces multiple charges of capital murder.

"I don't know you ever prepare yourself for something like this because you don't expect this," Don Guthrie, 57, a family friend and fellow church member, said before the funeral. "This is a shock. This is incomprehensible."

Friends were wrestling with the loss of what one called an "anchor family," whose home was the place where neighborhood kids gravitated.

"They were the people, despite the chaos of life, who were always looking for happiness and looking to do something better," said Tom Mixon, 47, a father of three and scoutmaster to one of the Stay boys. "Katie Stay was adamant about teaching her kids to do better every day and to treat people better every day. And because of that we all wanted to be better and wanted to be around them.

"It's hard to wrap my head around it, when somebody that's so ensconced in your life like that is suddenly gone."

Investigators said Haskell tied up the family and put them face-down on the floor before shooting each in the back of the head. Besides Stephen and Katie Stay, also killed were Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 6, and Zach, 4.

"It doesn't seem right that we have to bury our children first, our grandchildren," said Bradley Foster, one of the Mormon church's senior leaders who came from Utah to participate in the service.

Haskell's lawyers have said they will focus on his mental condition and whether he was legally responsible for the carnage. Prosecutors haven't yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against him.

Friends have said Katie Stay went to Utah last year to help her sister, Melanie, escape her relationship with Haskell. That couple was married in 2002 in California, separated last year and divorced in February.

Stephen Stay was the real estate broker for Moriah Davis, 32, who met the Stay family through their church and had almost daily contact with Katie Stay.

"You cry and talk about how wonderful they were and you move on a little bit at a time," the mother of three boys said.

Davis said her 5-year-old has been talking about 4-year-old Zach Stay and asked her: "Mom, do you think that Zach will like heaven?"

Mixon and Guthrie said their faith had prepared them to forgive Haskell.

"I'm not happy about it, but I'm not going to hold a grudge," said Guthrie.

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1. Mom of 8
Hyrum, UT,
July 16, 2014

Just unimaginable. I haven't been able to stop thinking about their oldest daughter, and praying frequently that somehow, she'll be able to deal with all of this, find peace, and still have a happy life. Incredibly tough times are ahead of her, but it seems she has a strong support system.

I hope someday she understands how many of us are praying and feeling for her, wishing we could take away some of this grief.

2. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
July 16, 2014

I have been so impressed by the myriad acts of kindness by the neighbors, friends, and other church members for Cassidy and her family. When I told my dentist this morning that the Stay family were members of our Church and close friends, he told me that he is praying for Cassidy and her family. There are thousands of ribbons tied for miles around the Stay home, and people and corporations are holding fund raising events for Cassidy. How could anyone not realize that the world is full of very good people? This tragedy has resulted in a wonderful miracle, pulling people together.

Can I forgive the murderer? How can I not? He is a brother, too. We are grieving, and I realize how much his own family is mourning his senseless act. We must leave it to the courts to determine his guilt and punishment, and know that our Savior will exercise both justice and mercy in determining his ultimate fate.

3. rlsintx
Plano, TX,
July 16, 2014

Hopefully this young lady will find her stride early, and cherish the family she shared in mortality in her heart for now. All is well with them, they'll be pulling for her.

To the family of the man who is charged: you love your son and support him through all this, few are going to be there for him. When things all come together with some finality, it's going to be an uncomfortable existence which likely will never lighten much in its nature. You'll have to be that light for him and your having done so will be part of your own reward in eternity and counted as part of selflessness in your character. God Bless you in finding the strength to fulfill that responsibility and extend that love - few will understand.

Best Wishes to all their friends and associates in coming to grips will all of this. What a challenge.

4. Grammy3
SOUTH JORDAN, UT,
July 17, 2014

Oh how I pray for this family. My heartaches for this young lady who has lost so much. I pray that the Lord will bless her with his peace and comfort during her time here on earth until they can be reunited again. I know that Families can be together Forever.

5. LittleStream
Carson City, NV,
July 17, 2014

I think the two people feeling this grief the deepest is Cassidy and Katie Stay's sister. Both of you remember who is at fault here; first blame Satan, then blame the man. Move past the blame and find out what it is that you still need to be doing here. I have had Cassidy in my prayers since I first read this horrible story.