By PAUL J. WEBER and EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — The Texas church where more than two dozen people were killed by a gunman during Sunday services will be demolished, the pastor said.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy told leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this week that it would be too painful to continue using First Baptist Church as a place of worship. Pomeroy discussed the state of the building with the denomination’s top executives, who traveled to the rural community in a show of support, a national Southern Baptist spokesman said.
The pastor described the church as “too stark of a reminder” of the massacre, spokesman Sing Oldham said.
No final decisions can be made without consulting congregants, but Pomeroy discussed turning the site into a memorial for the dead and putting up a new building on property the church owns, Oldham said.
Charlene Uhl, mother of 16-year-old Haley Krueger, who died in the attack, agreed that the church should come down.
There should still be a church “but not here,” she said Thursday as she visited a row of white crosses commemorating the victims in front of the building. She said her daughter attended worship services and a weekly Thursday night youth group meeting held by another victim, Karla Holcombe.
Jeannie Brown, visiting from Indiana, stopped at the site with her daughter, who used to live in Sutherland Springs but left decades ago for San Antonio.
Asked whether the church should be destroyed, Brown said: “Yes. Who would want to go back in there? But then if it is destroyed, does that mean he (the gunman) won?”
Other sites of mass shootings have been torn down, including Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012. A new school was built elsewhere.
A one-room Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was torn down in 2006, 10 days after an assailant took children hostage and shot and killed five girls ages 6 to 13.
The previous site of the school is now a pasture. A nearly identical schoolhouse with a security fence was erected nearby and named New Hope School.
The father of the gunman broke the family’s silence and said his relatives are grieving.
Michael Kelley spoke to ABC News on Wednesday from his home in New Braunfels, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of Sutherland Springs.
He said he does not want the “media circus” surrounding the attack by Devin Patrick Kelley to destroy “our lives, our grandchildren’s lives.”
A motive remains unclear, but the younger Kelley appears to have targeted the church because it was attended by his wife’s family. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two residents when he was leaving the church, authorities said.
The gunman shot and killed 25 people at the church. Authorities have put the official toll at 26, because one of the victims was pregnant.
All the victims died at the scene, except for one child who died at a hospital. Eleven people remained hospitalized Thursday with wounds they suffered in the attack.
Associated Press Religion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report.
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