TORONTO – Community members are remembering a family shot and killed in their suburban Houston home Wednesday as investigators begin to piece together a picture of the suspected gunman.
Authorities said Ronald Lee Haskell killed his ex-wife’s sister, Katie Stay, and her husband and the children, ranging in age from 4 to 14, after binding them and putting the family face-down on the floor of their home.
The slain couple’s 15-year-old daughter—and lone survivor of the attack—suffered a fractured skull when a bullet grazed her head.
Police said she “played dead” and called 911 after Haskell left the house.
As family members and neighbours attempt to come to terms with what occurred, a small memorial with flowers and candles has been set up at the front door of the family’s home.
A framed photo of the family with the inscription "Faith, Hope, Love" was placed on the porch.
“I don’t think any of us will ever be able to see that house the same again,” said neighbour Viri Palacios in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just want the word to get out they were a really, really good family.”
Palacios said the father, Stephen Stay, was a real estate broker while the mother was “a helpful presence around the neighbourhood, planning Halloween and Christmas parties for children.”
A few blocks away from the family’s home, multi-coloured ribbons are tied around trees in front of Lemm Elementary School – the school two of the slain children attended.
The school’s principal Kathy Brown put up the ribbons in order to have “positive bright thoughts about the family” and encouraged parents to do the same.
“They were just loved by everyone,” said Brown in an interview. “They just had an abundance of love for everyone. They were pleasers — wanting to do well for others.”
An online fundraiser to help pay for family’s funeral and medical expenses has raised more than $30,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
A memorial will be held for the family Saturday morning.
‘She is our hero’
Preliminary court hearing documents state that the 15-year-old daughter who survived attempted to close the door after telling Haskell her parents were not home. But he allegedly kicked it in.
The teen remained in critical condition Friday in a Houston hospital.
Katie Stay’s father, Roger Lyon, said in a statement Thursday that his granddaughter “is expected to make a full recovery.”
Police said the badly-wounded daughter contacted authorities after the tragic events unfolded in her home Wednesday and told them the gunman was planning to shoot other relatives.
Police located Haskell’s car and took him into custody after a three-hour standoff.
“We are grateful for this miracle,” Lyon said in his statement. “We are in awe of her bravery and courage in calling 911, an act that is likely to have saved all of our lives. She is our hero.”
© Shaw Media, 2014