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Friends describe victims of Cherokee County shooting as ‘unforgettable, that light in the room’

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:21 PM CDT
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CHEROKEE COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - We are learning more about the victims of the Cherokee County homicide that took the lives of four people. Friends of 18 year-old John Clinton and 47-year-old Jeff Gerla share more about how they remember the two men.

“Whenever I met him, it was like we’d been friends our whole lives. He made me feel welcome, he took me under his wing,” said Krista Reedy, a friend of 18-year-old John Clinton.

She said they’ve been friends for about two years and he’s an unforgettable person.

“We’d always help each other through work because through the stressful times he was always like, ‘C’mon Krista, it’s almost done, we’re almost done.’ He would always keep me upbeat and in a good mood,” she said.

47 year-old Jeff Gerla’s longtime friend Kevin Fritze said they met in fourth grade and went all through school together, even being taught by Gerla’s parents.

“He has a great sense of humor, he would always lighten any situation that we were a part of. He was that light in the room that everybody would turn to for that smile, that laugh. He has the ability to make every situation fun,” Fritze said.

Gerla enjoyed riding horses and was big into band. Fritze said he dedicated his life to helping people. Gerla was a college professor, and more recently was working in the mental health field. Fritze said he’ll remember the good times they had.

“That’s what Jeff was all about, the good times. You can’t escape the negative realities of life that we have to deal with. Unfortunately, even horrible events like this, it happens, and what you do is remember the best things that you can,” Fritze said. “You concentrate on the positive memories, and you do that person a favor by making sure that those never disappear, you keep them alive.”

Reedy described Clinton as caring, sweet, and a loyal friend.

“I’m just happy I got to know him other than a coworker and as a friend,” she said. “I was proud of him. He had these big dreams and would talk about getting out of Overton and going and living his own life and he did that.”

The other two victims were 39-year-old Amanda Bain and 39-year-old Ami Hickey, John Clinton’s mother.

Sheriff Brent Dickson said the killings started as a robbery, but then escalated.

Three men are being charged with capital murder: 21-year-old Dylan Welch, 37-year-old Billy Phillips, and 20-year-old Jesse Pawlowski, all of Jacksonville, were arrested Tuesday night. All three are being held on $1 million bonds.

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+ 3 arrested in connection with Cherokee County quadruple homicide

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