East Texas woman mourns the death of 8 family members in First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs shooting

Published on Monday, 6 November 2017 17:36 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA, eguevara@tylerpaper.com

An East Texas woman is grieving the loss of eight family members in the deadly South Texas church shooting.

Holly Maddox Elliott, 41, of Flint, learned the extent of the loss Sunday night after trying to reach family members all day.

She was watching her son's soccer game Sunday afternoon when she got a call from her sister alerting her to the tragedy unfolding in Sutherland Springs, where she had spent many Easter holidays with her extended family. Her sister said one of their cousins in Floresville had posted on Facebook that they were OK, but she didn’t know the status of anyone else.

What the sisters soon learned was that the church their family attended, First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, had been attacked and 26 people were dead.

The two started calling their family members, but couldn't get through to anyone. Late Sunday they learned that their uncle, Bryan Holcombe, was serving as substitute pastor Sunday and was walking to the pulpit when he was fatally shot in the back. Their aunt, Karla Holcombe, also was killed as was their cousin, Danny Holcombe, and his 1-year-old daughter, Noah, who was in the arms of her mother, who survived. Another cousin’s pregnant wife, Crystal Holcombe, and three of their children were killed as well.

“All in all, we lost eight family members,” Elliott said. “Our family that are up here, we feel helpless. We feel there is nothing that we can do. We want to be down there with our cousins, but with the investigation going on there is nothing we can do. We would just be in the way if we went down there.”

She plans to travel south once the investigation is over and they can begin helping their family make plans.

Elliott said every Easter the East Texas branch of the family would travel to South Texas to spend the holiday with their family there.

They sometimes attended Easter services at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where her aunt and uncle had been a part of the church community for at least a decade.

“Their church is their family as well,” Elliott said. “They are very Christian. At least they passed where they would want to be.”

She said a GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with medical bills and funeral arrangements. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/8familymembers. She also asked for prayers for peace.

“I’ve talked to my cousins,” Elliott said. “They’re doing OK. They’re doing as best as they can. They’re trying to hold it all together. They’ve lost half of their family, so of course it’s not easy, but they’re doing as best as they can.”