The grandparents of four children executed by a gunman inside their suburban Houston home Wednesday are thanking the community for their prayers and well wishes — and said their 15-year-old granddaughter who was shot in the head but survived by playing dead is expected to make a full recovery.
“We are grateful for this miracle,” Roger Lyon said of the teen’s survival in a statement Thursday. “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."
Ron Lee Haskell is charged with murdering the four children, aged 4 to 13, and their parents Stephen Stay, 39 and Katie Stay, 33, in Spring, Texas. Lyon is Katie’s father. Police said Haskell was headed to the grandparents' house next.
Police said Haskell drove to the Stay home looking for his ex-wife, Melannie Haskell, then tied up 15-year-old Cassidy when she answered the door and the rest of the victims when they later arrived. He then shot each in the back of the head.
Cassidy survived the shot and played dead until the gunman left; she then called 911 and was able to tell authorities where Haskell was headed, authorities said. Haskell later surrendered to police after a 20-minute chase and 3 ½ hour standoff, in which he held a gun to his head, police said.
"Stephen and Katie Stay and their beautiful children were an amazing and resilient family. They lived to help others, both at church and in their neighborhood. We love them beyond words,” the grandparents said in the statement. "We are shocked and devastated by this tragedy that has taken these precious souls away from us.”
Stunned members of the tight-knit Texas town were in disbelief Thursday, remembering the child victims as “beautiful kids” who “gave an abundance of hugs to everyone.”
The slain children were identified as Zach, 4, Bryan, 13, Rebecca, 7, and Emily, 9. Cassidy is in critical condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital.
“They were just loved by everyone,” said Lemm Elementary School Principal Kathy Brown of two of the four children who were slain and who were students there. “They just had an abundance of love for everyone. They were pleasers — wanting to do well for others.”
Throughout the day people dropped by the school and tied brightly-colored ribbons to trees outside the school.
An online fundraiser set up to pay for the family’s funeral and medical expenses had already raised more than $30,000 as of Thursday afternoon. A memorial for the family is planned Saturday morning at Lemm Elementary.
Jody Dellinger, district manager for the Harris County WCID 110 water and sewer district, started the online fundraiser and was overwhelmed with the responses of people who want to help. He was in a water board meeting along with the constable who was the first officer on the scene, Sgt. George Beck, two streets away when the shooting occurred.
“The cop who was the first on the scene came in and said, ‘Man, we gotta do something,’” Dellinger said. “It’s a very, very close community, a close-knit community. We’re their neighborhood, everyone knows them … It’s been unbelievable, the outpouring.”
Katie was a stay-at-home mom of five kids and frequently took her family to the Forest Oaks Swim & Racquet Club and other recreational facilities managed by the water district. A photo of the family, smiling and dressed in blue sitting on a bench swing surrounded by trees, was taken at the park.
“Cassidy's just a very sweet little girl,” Dellinger said. “She’s going to need a lot of prayer and a lot of attention after this. She’s an absolute hero.”