SAMSON — The funeral procession for four people killed in a 24-mile shooting spree in south Alabama retraced part of the gunman’s route Tuesday, and the small, tight-knit town tried mightily to move beyond the carnage that has come to define it.

More than 500 people filled a church with sobs and songs at a memorial service for four relatives of Michael McLendon, who killed 10 people before turning a gun on himself one week ago. Pastors at the First Baptist Church of Samson encouraged mourners to make the town of 2,100 known for love rather than the violence that shattered the rural community’s peace.

A long procession headed by emergency vehicles led four hearses down Main Street, a road McLendon drove as he sprayed his hometown with gunfire. Despondent over his inability to hold a job and his failure to be a Marine or a police officer, he killed family members and people at random.

This service was for four family members McLendon gunned down as they chatted with each other on his uncle’s front porch. They were McLendon’s maternal grandmother, Virginia Ett Wise White, 74; his uncle, James Alfred White, 55; a 34-year-old cousin, Tracy Michelle Wise, and her son, Dean James Wise, 15.

“We, the city of Samson, will miss these people very much in the days to come,” pastor Richard Thorn said from the pulpit.

Four caskets topped with flowers stood at the front of the sanctuary. More floral sprays were under stained-glass windows along pale-green walls.

Another preacher, Wendell Ard, urged mourners to make Samson a “town of love” known for helping the families of the victims.

“I can’t change anything. If I could I would reverse time,” Ard said.

There has already been an outpouring of support. A fundraising drive had garnered nearly $50,000 by the weekend to support the family members of the victims and local businesses offered donated caskets and burial vaults.

Pallbearers carried the caskets through a sea of people at the front of the church after the service.

Beforehand, one mourner stood at Alfred White’s open casket and slowly shook his head. Another dressed in overalls kneeled silently in prayer as family photos of the victims were projected on a big screen.

McLendon also killed his mother and burned her body in the rural home they shared near Kinston before coming to this town with more than 200 rounds of ammunition and four guns, police say.

Authorities said McLendon drove to the White home and opened fire, killing the Whites and Wises, plus the wife and toddler of a deputy sheriff who lived across the street. The deputy, Josh Myers, attended his neighbors’ memorial; he buried two family members Sunday.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Recommended for you