Funeral Held for Slain Texas Stay Family, Mourners Sustained 'by Faith'

( [email protected] ) Jul 16, 2014 04:57 PM EDT
The Stay family
From left to right: Cassidy Stay, 15, survived being shot in the head and called police after a gunman executed her sister Rebecca, 7; mother Katie, 33; sister Emily, 9; dad Stephen, 39; and brothers Zach, 4, and Bryan, 13. (via Facebook)

A funeral was held Wednesday for a Texas family slain earlier this month.

White caskets holding the bodies of Stephen and Katie Stay and their children Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 7, and Zach, 4 were taken to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Houston, Texas early Wednesday. NBC reports that mourners brought hundreds of floral arrangements, some decorated with teddy bears in memory of the slain children, adorn the caskets. A sign fashioned from bright blue cups hangs nearby, bearing the words  "STAY STRONG."

"It's bright thoughts for a bright family," said Marilyn Johnson, the church organist and friend of the family.

"The Stay family was strong and that's the kind of strong we need to be."

According to police reports, the Stays were killed in their home on July 9 when the ex-husband of Katie Stay's sister ambushed them, tied them up and shot them in the back of the head.

Katie Stay's uncle, Randy Cousins, fondly remembered the family's mother, who had a "joyful" personality. 

"She will forever be our Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way," he said

The lone survivor of the ambush is 15-year-old daughter Cassidy, who played dead after being hit by a bullet. One day after her release from the hospital, she spoke at a memorial service held in Spring, Texas.

"My family is in a much better place ...and I'll be able to see them again one day," she told hundreds of mourners.

Bishop Scott McBride told the brave surviving teen that her family would always be with her.

"You have a family of guardian angels looking over you," he said.

Elder Bradley Foster said, "in this world, good will always triumph over evil...Cassidy Stay had to stay, to carry on the family name."

 Cassidy identified the shooter to police as her ex-uncle, Ronald Lee Haskell. Police say the family may have been caught up in a domestic dispute between Haskell and his ex-wife.

Although devastated, the young girl says the prayers and support of the community have been a huge source of encouragement.

"Happiness can be found even in darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light," she said at the memorial service held at a nearby elementary school, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"I'm really thankful for all of the people who have been praying for me and keeping me and my family in their thoughts these past few days," Cassidy continued. "I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm on a straightforward path to recovery."

Meanwhile, the Spring, Texas community is still struggling to comprehend the horrific killings.

"No one understands why this happened," said Lucy Phillips of a neighboring suburb.

 "The Stays were kind, gentle people who genuinely loved one another and all those around them," she continued, noting that the community would continue to surround Cassidy with love and encouragement.

Marilyn Johnson says those affected are able to stay strong only through their faith in Christ, NBC reports.

"My knees buckled and I went to the ground," she said of when she heard the family had been killed. "Then my faith kicked in. Thank goodness for my faith, for our faith. It has sustained all of us."