East Texan who lost 8 relatives in church shooting says faith will get family through

East Texan who lost 8 relatives in church shooting says faith will get family through
Holly Elliott (Source: Holly Elliott, Facebook)
Holly Elliott (Source: Holly Elliott, Facebook)

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - An East Texas woman is mourning the loss of eight relatives who were killed in a mass shooting Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Holly Maddox Elliott, of Lindale, and her family lost eight people during the attack when a gunman entered the church during services and opened fire. Twenty-six people died and dozens more were injured.

The gunman has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley. The Associated Press reports that based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders, one of whom was armed, and crashed his car.

Elliott opened up Monday about the incident, how her family is finding strength through faith and fundraising efforts for medical and funeral expenses.

Elliott said her uncle was going to the pulpit to preach the sermon when he was shot.

"We lost my aunt and uncle, a cousin and his 1-year-old daughter, his wife was hit but she is OK and she's been released from the hospital. Another one of my cousins was shot in the leg but he is OK, and he lost his wife who was pregnant," Elliot said. "And they had five other children - three of them died. One of them is injured and one of them is fine."

Two other family members were running late to church.

"They showed up right as the gunman was leaving," she said.

Those family members have been identified by ABC as Bryan Holcombe, an associate pastor for the church; his wife, Karla Holcombe; their son, Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36, Marc's daughter's Noah Holcombe; Crystal Holcombe, who was pregnant, and her three children, Emily, Megan and Greg.

The East Texan was at her son's soccer game when her sister called with the news.

Initially, the family was unable to find information. They began contacting family members and were unable to reach anyone.

"She called me right back to let me know that a gunman had entered our aunt's church," she said.

Now, the tight-knit family is struggling to make sense of what happened and to stay strong.

"I just spoke with one of my cousins on the phone and he said that everybody is staying strong and they're putting their faith in God. ... We don't know what the reason for this is … but our family is a very Christian family and they know that God took them for a reason and we just don't know why yet," she said.

The community has also been a source of comfort during the tragedy.

"My family down there that this happened to, they've lived in that community for as long as I can remember," Elliott said, adding that her aunt and uncle were heavily involved in the community.

The couple were high school sweethearts and had been married for more than 20 years. They had four children and Elliott described them as "down-to-earth, fun-loving people" who were known to take in troubled youths.

"They were very down to earth, not materialistic, they helped everyone that they could help. ... They were very involved in their church. They took children on youth trips. Their church family was as much as their family as we are," she said.

A family friend has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family handle medical and funeral expenses during this time.

"We have eight funerals to start looking to plan and … I have three cousins that are still alive and you know it will help with them with any of the expenses that they've incurred medically," Elliott said.

But it will be a while before the family can begin burying their loved ones, there is an ongoing investigation into the incident - which has been called the second deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

"Right now there's not much that anybody can do because there is an ongoing investigation," Elliott said, her voice faltering.

But the family is leaning on faith and the community as they grieve.

"The faith in the community, the faith in God will help my cousins to make it through," she said.

Multiple accounts have been created to help the family.

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