Pastor's wife murdered week after church burns

May 20, 2010 8:05:27 AM PDT
First their church burned down; now the pastor's wife has been found shot dead in her driveway. And now, that congregation is struggling to cope with it all.

The First New Mount Calvary Baptist Church in the Fifth Ward Near downtown Houston has been around for almost 100 years. And now, the very small congregation is learning how to deal with two very different, but very difficult losses.

"This church holds a lot of memories," said church member Gwen Harris.

Even a week later, it's still hard to grasp.

Harris was a little girl in pigtails who grew up in the church her grandfather founded more than 90 years ago.

A week after the small corner church by the railroad tracks lost their building, they lost their pastor's wife to murder.

"Everybody's thankful to be alive and something like this happens, it upsets the foundation," said Gerald Dugar, neighbor of Pauletta Burleson.

Sheriff's deputies say the 56-year-old Burleson was shot and killed in the driveway of her northeast Harris County home Tuesday night.

Associate Pastor Marcus Nobles calls Burleson a strong woman.

"I'm gonna miss that smile. I'm gonna miss the time of just being able to sit down and chit-chat with her and address any situation that took place, so it's going to be hard," Nobles said.

Nobles says the church has had some internal challenges, but they always come together on Sundays.

Harris is hopeful the picture-perfect days in her childhood sanctuary will be back.

"I just hope that will come back to what it was, and even better," Harris said. "That's all my desire."

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire, and the sheriff's office said they haven't identified a motive or suspects in the murder of the pastor's wife.


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