© Family photo/Family photo Robert and Shani Corrigan.
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A gunman opened fire on the pews of First Baptist Church; authorities say 26 people were killed. The attack left a staggering hole in a town of fewer than 700 people. Here are the stories of those who died.
Robert Corrigan, 51, and Shani Corrigan
Robert and Shani were high school sweethearts, marrying shortly after graduation, said Rodney Corrigan, Robert’s brother. When Robert enlisted in the Air Force, he was stationed near San Antonio early in his career. The couple fell in love with the area and decided to move back upon retirement, Rodney said.
Rodney said his brother was a devout Christian and amateur musician who composed religious hymns and played guitar.
“He dedicated his life to God and his music,” Rodney said in a brief interview. “He has always been very faithful. We went to church three times a week through our whole childhood, and my brother never strayed.
Robert and Shani grew up in Clare County, Mich., according to the Veterans Services office there. Robert, who had been a local track star, joined the Air Force to work in medicine after high school. From October 2012 until his retirement in September 2015, Robert was the superintendent of the 55th Medical Group at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. He retired as a chief master sergeant, the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force.
Two of their sons remain on active duty in the Air Force, the veterans office said in a statement, adding that it was speaking on behalf of family members. Another son died last November at age 25.
— Tim Craig
Bryan and Karla Holcombe
Bryan, an associate pastor for the church, was said to be walking to the pulpit to lead the congregation in worship when the gunman began to fire. According to his parents, the associate pastor had been involved in church work ever since he was young.
“We knew when he was born that he was going to be a preacher,” Joe Holcombe, his father, told The Washington Post. “His first word was ‘God.’ ”
His first sentence? “See the light.”
Bryan and Karla were high school sweethearts. One day, their school was selling roses, offering to deliver them to the classrooms of admirers. So Bryan delivered a rose to every one of Karla’s classes that day.
“He thought she was cute, and she was,” Joe Holcombe said.
Karla had the “gift of hospitality,” her mother-in-law said. She had planned on hosting the family’s Thanksgiving.
On his Facebook page, Bryan is shown hoisting his grandchildren on his shoulders, dressing up in costumes for church events and playing his ukulele. He would often play and sing for prison inmates, a relative told the Associated Press.
“Grandkids, it doesn’t get any better!” Bryan wrote on Facebook on one photo of his many grandchildren. “I’ll wake up at night and, in prayer, thank God for each of them . . . it takes a while:-)”
Bryan and Karla lived near his parents, between Floresville and Sutherland Springs. He ran a business on his parents’ farm, making tarps for cattle trailers, Joe Holcombe said.
— Samantha Schmidt
Crystal Holcombe; Greg Hill, 13; Emily Hill, 11; Megan Hill, 8
Crystal was at church with her husband, John. Three of her children — Emily, Megan and Greg — were also killed. She was pregnant; the unborn child was also killed.
Rojean Staggs, 66, of Floresville said she had rented an apartment to Crystal and described her as a sweet and natural mother to a large brood.
“Crystal was a breath of fresh air. She loved children,” Staggs said, describing a woman who seemed to navigate easily between children with different, competing needs without ever seeming flustered. “She had a full house and just seemed to take to it beautifully.” Staggs said Crystal had been married to her husband, John, for just a few years. Staggs said Crystal lost her first husband to cancer.
Crystal home-schooled her five children and was heavily involved in the church, like the rest of the family. On Facebook, she reported proudly of her children’s successes in competitions for their local 4-H and wrote about a recent bake sale in which the girls participated, benefiting families affected by Hurricane Harvey.
— Samantha Schmidt and Abigail Hauslohner
Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36; Noah Holcombe, 1
Marc Daniel Holcombe was the son of Bryan and Karla and the father of Noah, 1, all of whom were also killed.
Dennis Johnson, 77; Sara Johnson, 68
The family confirmed their deaths but declined to comment further.
— Marwa Eltagouri
Haley Krueger, 16
This is not the first time tragedy befell Hayley’s family. Her father passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2015, leaving behind her and her three siblings. “Haley loved life and was the most dramatic person,” her mother, Charlene Uhl said in a GoFundMe campaign set up by a family friend. She dreamed of becoming a NICU nurse.
— Colby Itkowitz
Tara McNulty, 33
Seeing news of the shooting on TV Sunday night, Amber Maricle texted her best friend, Tara McNulty, that “the shooting was so close to you,” and added a crying face emoji, she recounted. Tara never responded.
Monday morning, one of Tara’s close friends in Texas reached out to Maricle, 34, to tell her that Tara went to church Sunday morning. “I said ‘is she still with us’ and she said ‘no,” Maricle said Monday night through tears. “It rips your heart out of your chest.”
The two became friends when Maricle went looking for a home about five years ago in DeRidder, La. She got her home and became best friends with McNulty, the woman who sold it to her. When they lived in the same area, they would hang out on the couch, eat pizza and watch “Gilmore Girls,” “Pitch Perfect” and other favorites.
“She was like me, she was like my soul sister,” Maricle said. “We could literally finish each other’s sentences. It was an immediate bond.” McNulty was a single mother and loved her kids more than anything, Maricle said. Her kids were wounded in the gunfire, according to both Maricle and Kevin Koenen, her boss at work.
McNulty worked part-time at The Aumont Saloon, Koenen wrote in a Facebook message to The Post, but he declined to talk more about her “at this point.” Koenen posted on Facebook about a benefit event Nov. 12 to support funeral and medical expenses. “Tara was killed in the shooting at the church, her kids were also wounded but pulled through and have a long road to recovery,” he wrote. “This is a huge loss. Tara was very kind hearted person great employee.” Another friend wrote in a Facebook message to The Post that McNulty had great character but declined to talk over the phone because of her grief. “Tara was so much more than a friend she was my sister my strength a amazing mom and a good Christian with morals and faith like you dont see today,” Elaina Mendez wrote in a Facebook message.
— Ellie Silverman
Annabelle Pomeroy, 14
Annabelle’s mother and father weren’t at church Sunday, but the shy, perpetually smiling girl with an affinity for motorcycles was surrounded by the church family she’d grown up with.
She was from a family of religious leaders — her father and uncle are pastors.
Her father is the pastor at First Baptist, but Sunday he was traveling with his wife, Sheri.
“We lost more than Belle yesterday, and the one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded by her church family that she loved fiercely, and vice versa,” Sherri Pomeroy told reporters at a news conference Monday.
“As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family,” Sherri said.
Cynthia Rangel, a family friend who lives in nearby Stockdale, told The Post that Annabelle “was very quiet, shy, always smiling, and helpful to all.”
Annabelle was the youngest of six children. She turned 14 in October and was a seventh-grader at Briesemeister Middle School. The school superintendent wrote that the school was mourning Belle, “a victim of this senseless crime.”
She was an “angel in the flesh,” her uncle Scott Pomeroy told BuzzFeed.
Later, in a Facebook post, he wrote: “She made being an uncle one [of] the best titles I’ve ever held.”
— Cleve Wootson
Richard, 64, and Therese Rodriguez
On Saturday mornings, Richard would wake up early and turn on the TV, and he and his daughter Regina would watch “Soul Train” together. He would bang on things as though he were playing the drums like Carlos Santana. On Friday nights, they would dance and act silly, always ending the night with “Heat Wave” by Martha & the Vandellas. They would all try to sing the long drawn-out part at the end, and Richard would end up choking, sputtering as the note faded to make them laugh.
He liked to watch the first Cowboys game of the season with Regina and take her to the flea market on weekends. He was always trying to make everyone happy, make everyone laugh, Regina said.
On Sunday, Regina was with her family at Six Flags Fiesta Texas for a company picnic when she got a message from a relative of her father’s wife, Therese, to call ASAP. There had been a shooting at the church.
Her father, a foreman for the railroad, and his wife, a receptionist for the same company, had recently retired. If they weren’t cutting the grass, or working in the garden, she said, they were at the church.
Regina kept calling hospitals, but their names weren’t listed, no one could tell her what happened. She knew why.
Both of them were in the church. Both of them were killed.
Regina was his only daughter, and he spoiled her, she said – her room when she was little had a gumball machine, and a canopy bed, and when she went through a period of depression when she was a teenager, she just wanted to sit on the couch and have him hold her. “I just felt like I needed my dad,” she said Monday. And he was there.
Her mother died when she was 18, and her dad helped her through that. Her dad was at her graduation, her dad walked her down the aisle, her dad would take her children for the weekend to spend time with them. One of her sons would always put on boots and Wranglers and sunglasses on the visor of his cap before those weekends, so excited to see his grandfather that he wanted to dress like him.
Regina found herself putting her sunglasses on the visor of her cap, often, too.
“He was my person,” she said, “the person I called. The person I went to if I had a problem.”
Her father taught her to be strong, she said. “He taught me how to love.
When things got to be too much, he was the one.
“I didn’t call anybody else but him,” she said, choking on her own tears. “And now I can’t even call him.”
— Susan Svrluga
Joann Ward; Emily Garza, 7; Brooke Ward, 5
Just two blocks from the church, a couple talked about the loss to their extended family: Chris Ward, who was at home sleeping, lost his wife, Joann Ward, and two children, 7-year-old Emily Garza and 5-year-old Brooke Ward, in the church shooting. His 5-year-old son Ryland is hospitalized in stable condition. An older daughter was not injured.
“He’s hanging in there,” the relative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said of Chris. “He’s hurting.”
A hand-painted sign hanging on the wooden fence of their home read, “God made, Jesus saved, Texas raised.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that Leslie Ward, Joann’s sister-in-law, was setting up a yard sale Sunday when she heard the sound of rapid shots nearby. Her husband, Michael Ward, carried Ryland out of the church moments after the shooting stopped; the boy had gunshot wounds in his stomach, groin, and arm.
In disbelief as they waited for news, Michael Ward said to the Dallas Morning News, “The church, of all places.”
— Eva Ruth Moravec and Susan Svrluga