Image: Shooting victim's funeral
Dave Martin  /  AP
Pallbearers carry a casket from the First Baptist Church in Samson, Ala., Tuesday. Four of the 10 people gunned down by Michael McClendon last week were buried.
updated 3/17/2009 7:26:06 PM ET 2009-03-17T23:26:06

The funeral procession for four people killed in a 24-mile shooting spree in south Alabama retraced part of the gunman's route Tuesday, and the small town tried mightily to move beyond the carnage that has come to define it.

More than 500 people filled a church with sobs and songs at a memorial service for four relatives of Michael McLendon, who killed 10 people before turning a gun on himself one week ago. Pastors at the First Baptist Church of Samson encouraged mourners to make the town of 2,100 known for love rather than the violence that shattered the rural community's peace.

A long procession headed by emergency vehicles led four hearses down Main Street, a road McLendon drove as he sprayed his hometown with gunfire. Despondent over his inability to hold a job and his failure to be a Marine or a police officer, he killed family members and people at random.

This service was for four family members McLendon gunned down as they chatted with each other on his uncle's front porch. They were McLendon's maternal grandmother, Virginia Ett Wise White, 74; his uncle, James Alfred White, 55; a 34-year-old cousin, Tracy Michelle Wise, and her son, Dean James Wise, 15.

"We, the city of Samson, will miss these people very much in the days to come," pastor Richard Thorn said from the pulpit.

Four caskets topped with flowers stood at the front of the sanctuary. More floral sprays were under stained-glass windows along pale-green walls.

Make Samson a 'town of love'
Another preacher, Wendell Ard, urged mourners to make Samson a "town of love" known for helping the families of the victims.

"I can't change anything. If I could I would reverse time," Ard said.

There has already been an outpouring of support. A fundraising drive had garnered nearly $50,000 by the weekend to support the family members of the victims and local businesses offered donated caskets and burial vaults.

Pallbearers carried the caskets through a sea of people at the front of the church after the service.

Beforehand, one mourner stood at Alfred White's open casket and slowly shook his head. Another dressed in overalls kneeled silently in prayer as family photos of the victims were projected on a big screen.

McLendon also killed his mother and burned her body in the rural home they shared near Kinston before coming to this town with more than 200 rounds of ammunition and four guns, police say.

Deputy buried family members Sunday
Authorities said McLendon drove to the White home and opened fire, killing the Whites and Wises, plus the wife and toddler of a deputy sheriff who lived across the street. The deputy, Josh Myers, attended his neighbors' memorial; he buried two family members Sunday.

Leaving the slaughtered on the porch of Alfred White's home, McLendon, 28, then killed two more people with random gunfire in town before killing a 10th person, Bruce Maloy, who chased him out of town after realizing what was happening. A service for Maloy was scheduled for Wednesday.

A funeral was held Monday on the 25th birthday of James Starling, who was gunned down as he walked along a street in Samson. Several hundred people attended the service, where the married father of two young daughters was remembered as a man who treated people right.

No service has been scheduled yet for McLendon's mother, Lisa McLendon, or the gunman. He shot and killed himself in a former workplace in Geneva to end the siege.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments