Community holds vigil for victims of family murder-suicide in Bay City

December 8, 2011 1:55:04 AM PST
The community of Bay City came together on Wednesday in a big way for the family devastated by last week's tragic shootings. A father killed his four young children, shot his wife, and then killed himself. The mother, Laura Gonzalez, is the only survivor, and friends and neighbors are doing what they can to now help her.

On this one week anniversary, we found a city in the depths of grief and vowing to not forget. And we've received those 911 recordings of those frantic calls for help that deadly day.

Hundreds of co-workers, neighbors, strangers trying to comprehend the incomprehensible gathered Wednesday night for a vigil at the Matagorda County Courthouse on 7th Street.

"For the last seven days, I've been playing back the events, the emotions, the thoughts, the confusion, the prayers from last Wednesday night," Bay City Mayor Mark Bricker said.

Why would a father kill his four children, and was there anything the community of Bay City could have done?

"It's really hurt everybody in a way that we can't explain. It's just hard to explain," said Yolanda Johnson, who taught two of the children.

Five-year-old Airelle Medina was a classmate with one.

"We do play outside together and we make lots of friends forever, all day long," she said.

Her mother, like so many others, struggles to explain the tragedy.

"It's breaking everybody's heart right now. We're all trying to come together with this," said Jessica Medina.

Earlier in the day, donations were crumpled into a giant jar. Neighbors in Bay City have been rallying by donating money to Laura Gonzalez. She is the sole survivor of last week's horrific shootings in Bay City. Police say Jose Avila shot and killed his four children, his wife Laura, and then fatally shot himself. For many neighbors, they still can't talk about it.

When we asked one neighbor why this is so important to her, Brenda Broussard replied, "Because so much of this happens every day and you don't get to see it and it was here in Bay City and it touched me."

Gonzalez worked at Ricardo's restaurant. Her co-workers remember a woman who used to come to work bruised and scared. Gina Aguilar says she asked repeatedly to help Gonzalez.

"We would tell her she needed to leave that situation and tell her we'd help, but like most women who are abused they are afraid to go off on their own," said Aguilar.

The restaurant wanted to sell 200 plates to raise money, and so far, over 600 plates have been sold.

"People have called from Louisiana, Tennessee, California, with credit card numbers wanting to donate to her. They can't come to BBQ, but want to donate money," Aguilar said.

The front yard of the home where the shootings happened also is covered with mementos. It was on November 30 when the shootings happened. Just as neighborhood children were coming home from school, the first 911 calls were made by those children who saw the horror and called for help.

"We need an officer right now. There is this man shooting at this lady. We need a cop," said the caller says in the recording. "We have babies around here. There are babies in the car and he won't give them to the mom."

Ten days before the shootings, Bay City police say Laura Gonzales called 9-1-1, telling the dispatcher she had been hit by her husband. You can hear children in the background.

"I don't know where to go, I don't have a car, I don't have nothing ... I don't know what to do," she told the dispatcher.

A fund has been established for the mother and children of this tragedy. The fund has been setup at Wells Fargo Bank in Bay City Texas under the name of Bay City Tragedy Benefit. Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund may do so by contacting Michael Gonzales at 979-241-3736.


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