HOUSTON (Reuters) - Eight matching white caskets adorned with flowers were lined up on Monday at the funeral service for a family of two parents and six children who were killed more than a week ago.
David Conley, 48, has been charged with capital murder for shooting his former girlfriend Valerie Jackson, her husband Dwayne Jackson and six children, in their Houston-area home. The bodies will be transported for burial in Wisconsin, where Valerie’s family lives, church officials said.
Prosecutors said they are likely to seek the death penalty.
Eric Jackson, the brother of Dwayne Jackson, described him as a caring father and a wonderful man.
“This planet could not hold the love he had for his kids,” he told reporters prior to the church service attended by about 200 people.
“He was just an all-around good guy. He was a gentle giant,” the brother said. “It has impacted our family in a very deep way.”
Five of the children were born to Valerie and Dwayne Jackson. The sixth child, 13-year-old Nathaniel, was from Valerie Jackson’s previous relationship with Conley, according to court documents.
Prior to the service, a choir sang inspirational Christian songs to many who were wiping away tears.
The service was meant to be upbeat and celebrate the lives of a loving family. After it was over, the caskets were loaded in hearses and escorted by constables on motorcycles.
Boys from the football team of one of the slain children dressed in their football uniforms and helped escort the coffins out of the church.
According to an indictment presented at a Houston court, Conley slipped into the home through a window, tied up the eight people and shot them all in the head.
After a standoff with sheriff’s deputies called to the house by a relative of one of the victims concerned about the family’s welfare, the suspect fired on officers when they entered the home, it said.
Deputies went to the house four times within a period of nine hours on Aug. 8, the day of the shooting, after receiving numerous calls to check on the family, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said.
In addition to Nathaniel Conley, authorities identified the slain children as Honesty Jackson, 11; Dwayne Jackson, 10; Caleb Jackson, 9; Trinity Jackson, 7; and Jonah Jackson, 6.
A GoFundMe.com page set up for the funeral has raised nearly $30,000 to cover expenses.
Reporting by Dennis Spellman in Houston, Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Lisa Shumaker
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