Priest, minister conduct Appomattox prayer service
Nearly 10 years after eight people were killed in a mass shooting in Appomattox County, the community gathered for a memorial ceremony at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Appomattox, the evening of Friday, Jan. 10.
Nearly 100 people packed the sanctuary to attend the memorial for Lauralee Sipe, 38; Dwayne S. Sipe, 38; Joshua Sipe, 4; Morgan L. Dobyns, 15; Emily A. Quarles, 15; Johnathan L. Quarles, 43; Karen Quarles, 43; and Ronald “Bo” I. Scruggs, 16.
The outside of the church was adorned with fairy lights, and plastic tea lights were handed out as mourners entered the sanctuary.
Father Jim Gallagher, pastor of Our Lady of Peace, and Rev. Dr. Adam Tyler of Grace Hills Baptist Church conducted the service. Family members of the deceased sat in the front pews.
During the memorial, Kim Scruggs, mother of Bo Scruggs, shared memories of her son that spoke to his character and kind heart.
Linda Smith, mother of Dwayne Sipe; mother-in-law to Lauralee Sipe; grandmother of Joshua Sipe and step-grandmother to Morgan Dobyns, also shared memories of her loved ones and told those gathered that she believes that healing comes from the power of God.
Although none of the victims of the tragedy were parishioners of Our Lady of Peace, Father Gallagher has lit a candle on the piano at the front of the sanctuary each Sunday in honor of the lives lost.
The strength of the close-knit community was evident in those who came to pay their respects and highlighted by those who addressed the crowd.
Mary Anne Freshwater of Appomattox County Victim/Witness, who worked with the families of the victims after the shooting, said that other victim/witness organizations helped to support the families as they navigated the criminal justice system and court processes.
Retired Deputy Todd Craft spoke of the community’s solidarity, recalling that in the wake of the tragedy, the counties of Amherst, Bedford and Campbell, the city of Lynchburg and the Virginia State Police all offered assistance.
Sheriff Donald Simpson was the lead investigator of the case, which garnered national news attention at the time. He told those at the memorial service that the case changed his outlook on his career and his life.
Simpson had been working 16-hour days to build a strong case. As part of that work, he interviewed dozens of people and learned everything he could about each victim. He said that when he finally slowed down to read news coverage of the shooting and saw the victims’ faces, he was overcome by the realization of all that was lost.
After words were shared by family members and those involved with the case, Scripture was read and a prayer for healing, comfort and peace was said.
Family members of the deceased walked to the piano and lit a candle in remembrance of each victim.
The crowd then processed to the church’s memorial garden, where Father Gallagher rang a bell as each lost loved one’s name was read aloud.