The Christian community in Leesburg, Virginia is left reeling after the lives of a longtime Christian couple ended in a "demonic" murder-suicide just hours after they were seen worshiping in church.
According to NBC Washington, 40-year-old Andre T. Howell, a former minister and chief petty officer in the Navy, fatally shot his 39-year-old wife, Naomi H. Howell, before killing himself in their Lansdowne townhome.
"I feel so, so sorry for them. They were the nicest couple in the neighborhood," one neighbor who didn't want to be identified, told the news outlet.
The couple, who co-founded a Loudoun County church, leaves behind two children -- a young daughter who was inside the home at the time of the incident but wasn't physically harmed, and an older daughter who was at college at the time of the tragedy.
Michelle Thomas, pastor of Holy & Whole Life Changing Ministries International where the couple worshiped, said the childhood sweethearts were having marital problems, but noted there were no signs of any immediate trouble when she saw them on Sunday.
She revealed that she had spoken to Andre earlier in the week, and he appeared "excited."
"He was very excited. He told me he was just preparing for the week. ... He watched the game with some of our other friends," Thomas told NBC. "This is absolutely shocking and devastating."
"If we're looking for rational explanation we will never find one here because these were God lovers. This should not have happened. It's demonic," added Thomas.
Ivana Robinson, who told NBC the Howells were like an aunt and uncle to her, said people were aware that the couple was having problems, as they were often heard arguing and had previously sought counseling. However, they had no idea just how bad things were.
"At the time, things were going on, and people knew, but nobody knew how serious it was," said Robinson. "So it's like you think that you could have changed something and it would have been different if you were more there and around."
Following the news of the shocking incident, hundreds of people took to Facebook to offer prayers and condolences.
"Prayers for their families, this is such a horrible situation," wrote one woman.
Added another, "I pray for the both of their families, no one knows exactly what happened, but before we all get married we need counseling of some kind and lay it all out on the table past, present, and moving into the future...if something is not right don't get married until you deal with your stuff. If you are married now and you have problems seek help from a marriage counselor."
A GoFundMe page has been created to assist with paying for Andre and Naomi's funeral expenses along with their daughters' living expenses moving forward.
Reads the description, "Above all, we ask that you continue to lift Andre and Naomi's daughters up in prayer as they prepare to lay their parents to rest and begin to heal. Thank you for your generosity and support. Be still, and know that I am God...Psalm 46:10."