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Bell Residents Hold Vigil In Honor Of Slain Family

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Elementary-age children attend the vigil held for their classmates Sunday night. Sarah Spirit and her six children were victims of a mass shooting last Thursday, Sept. 18.
Elementary-age children attend the vigil held for their classmates Sunday night. Sarah Spirit and her six children were victims of a mass shooting last Thursday, Sept. 18.

Police said last Thursday, Don Spirit shot and killed his daughter and six grandchildren before turning the gun on himself.

Instead of attending Sunday night church and preparing for the week, families gathered at the Bell Elementary School bus loop. Many of the children shot attended Bell Elementary.

As kids and their families packed the bus loop where the vigil was being held, one child was doing even more than that.

Cory Tuten, 8, is going door to door in Lake City and Chiefland asking for donations to give his friend Johnathon a proper burial.

“We were trying to figure out a way to make money to help with the funeral,” Cory said. “So, we were sitting down at our table and mom told us to make some boxes.”

Cory and his family decorated a box with pictures of the six children, ages 3 months to 11 years old.  The other side had the words “Pray for Bell” sketched across it.

Cory recalled whenever he and Johnathan had church or vacation bible school together, the boys would get into trouble – but  “just a little bit of trouble.” “Now, we’ll never be able to do that again.

The Tuten family was one of many paying their respects. In a town of nearly 450 people, hundreds came together to mourn the deaths. The ceremony began with a moment of silence, and a distant bell rang to honor the life of each child; 3 month-old Alanna, 4 year-old Brandon, 5 year-old Destiny Stewart, 8 year-old Johnathon Kuhlman and 9 year-old Kylie Kuhlman.

What used to be a happy place these children came to learn, was now a sad place where they’re being remembered. By sundown, candles illuminated the bus loop.

During the vigil, Rob Rankin, Gilchrist County Schools’ Superintendent presented seven oak trees to Bell Elementary. These trees will be planted in honor of the mother and her children.

On Sunday night, the town of Bell was preparing for much more than another week at school, they were preparing to endure the pain that lies ahead.

 

About Erica A. Hernandez

Erica is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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