Friends, neighbors mourn family slain in mass shooting

By Jennifer Bauer - Reporter , Samantha Ptashkin - Reporter , Nakia Cooper - Senior Web Editor

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Neighbors are mourning the victims killed in a mass shooting in the Spring area, leaving candles and flowers for the victims.

Church friends of the Stay family released balloons Thursday night as a way to honor them.

Michael Davis told Local 2 it was a way to help their kids understand what had happened. Davis' son was in preschool with the Stay's youngest son, Zachary.

"We know that we may not be able to have them right here with us, but we want to let them know we love them, especially Cassidy. She has lost her whole family... how hard that must be," said Davis.

"It's a sad world that we live in that people get so angry that they want to hurt someone," said neighbor Cindy Majkszak.

On Facebook, condolences are pouring in for the family, including the five children. The youngest is just four years old. The oldest, a 15-year-old girl, is the only survivor.

"I want to just hold her," said neighbor Patti Beller. "I want to just hold her."

By all accounts, the family was well-respected in their community.

"They were the most kindest, gentlest people and you hear that all the time, but they literally embodied the word kind," said Paul Anthony.

Now neighbors are having a hard time understanding how such kindness led to them getting killed, especially in such a brutal way.

The shooting happened late Wednesday afternoon in the 700 block of Leaflet in the Enchanted Oaks subdivision. The Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office says the man, identified as 33-year-old Ron Lee Haskell, shot seven family members—two adults and five children. The victims were Haskell's in-laws.

The adult victims have been identified as Stephen Stay, 39, and 33-year-old Katy Stay. Four of their five children—two boys, ages 4 and 13, and two girls, ages 6 and 9 -- were killed. Their 15-year-old daughter was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital via Lifeflight and remains in critical condition.

According to documents read in magistrate court Thursday morning, the 15-year-old girl said Haskell knocked on the door of the family's home dressed as a FedEx worker. He asked for her parents, but she said they weren't home.

Court documents state Haskell left, then returned a short time later and knocked on the door again. She told him once again that her parents were not home. Once Haskell told her his name, the girl said she recognized that he was her "ex-uncle" and tried to close the door.

The teen said Haskell then kicked the door in and tied her up. When the rest of the family returned home, the girl said he tied them up as well and laid them face-down on the floor.

He asked where his estranged wife was, and when they told him they did not know, court documents state he shot them all "execution-style" in the back of the head and left the scene.

The bullet meant to kill Cassidy only fractured her skull. Investigators say she put up her hand when she was shot, losing a finger, but deflecting the bullet just enough to change its trajectory and save her life. Cassidy played dead until her uncle left, then called 911 for help.

The two adults and three of the children were found dead upon arrival, according to deputies. One child was transported via LifeFlight to the hospital, but also died. 

The 15-year-old survivor was able to tell deputies who the shooter was and that she believed he was headed to another residence at Anvil and Ella to possibly attack more family members.

Cassidy was already loaded onto the stretcher and being wheeled out of the front door when she grabbed an officer's arm and gave him the information.

Thanks to her warning, law enforcement officials intercepted Haskell, arriving to the home three minutes ahead of him.  When Haskell spotted deputies, he took off.  He led them on a 30-minute chase for more than three miles until he drove into a cul-de-sac at Countrymeadow and Country Canyon Drive and was blocked in by deputies shortly before 7 p.m.

Haskell, holding a gun to his head, sat in his vehicle for hours surrounded by deputies with guns drawn and at least a dozen patrol cars.

A large SWAT vehicle rammed into the suspect's car, crushing the front bumper, and stopped on top of the hood of the car. A second SWAT truck pulled directly behind the suspect's car and rammed into the back of it, preventing the car from moving.

Then shortly before 10 p.m., negotiators were able to get Haskell to surrender peacefully.

Haskell was charged with capital murder and is being held without bond.

The murders have left the community in pain.

"It's all I could think about was the kids, what they were going through when they were seeing everything happen," said Viri Palacios, neighbor.

"It's just heartbreaking to know someone is filled with so much anger that they take it out on little kids," said Majkszak.

Even veteran law enforcement officials are stumped.

"I have not personally in 40 years seen a tragedy in one family this horrific," said Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman.

Late Thursday afternoon, a statement was released by Roger Lyon, the father of  Katie Stay:

"Stephen and Katie Stay and their beautiful children were an amazing and resilient family. They lived to help others, both at church and in their neighborhood. We love them beyond words.
Cassidy Stay, 15, who survived the attack, is expected to make a full recovery. We are grateful for this miracle. We are in awe of her bravery and courage in calling 911, an act that is likely to have saved all of our lives. She is our hero. More information will be forthcoming in the days ahead about her heroics, but right now we want to concentrate on getting her well.
We are also grateful for all who have reached out with their prayers, well-wishes and offers of help. We send our unending gratitude to law enforcement and first responders whose quick actions saved many lives.
We are shocked and devastated by this tragedy that has taken these precious souls away from us. At this time, we are not able to make any statements or grant any interviews as our grief is difficult to bear. Please respect our privacy and that of our family members as we continue to try to make sense of what's happened."

Klein ISD says the 15-year-old girl, Cassidy, attends Klein High School and is a member of the band. The band director described her as "incredibly brave, intelligent and all-around great young lady."

Two of the deceased children attended Lemm Elementary and another attended Schindewolf Intermediate.

Klein ISD released a statement which read, "The entire Klein ISD community wishes to express our sincere condolences to the impacted families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and with the friends, neighbors, teachers and others that now collectively grieve and then will begin to heal by celebrating the lives of this special family."

The district says there will be a celebration of the lives of the children and their parents at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 12, at Lemm Elementary at 19034 Joanleigh Dr. in the front parking lot. There will be songs, a memorial and a balloon launch.

A gofundme site has been set up to help raise money for the Stay family.

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