Hundreds pack church to honor gospel singer's death

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Church at Bethel's Family was packed with people to honor the life of Dr. LaTonya Earl Saturday morning.

The music minister and gospel recording artist was struck head-on by another car on Valentine's Day. The Harris County Sheriff's Office said a concrete truck spilled its load and Selvin Maldonado Palacios, 19, drove through it, lost control of his car and struck Dr. Earl.

Her husband and daughter remembered her as a jokester, calling her their best friend.

"I would be laying down at nighttime and all the sudden she would hit me real hard with a pillow," her husband recalled. "I'm talking about real hard. Boom! And I would wake up and say, 'What happened?' She would say 'I don't know.'"

The choir she led at The Church at Bethel's Family for 15 years fought through tears to fill her service with the music she loved.

"I'm sure she did touch every person, even if it was song or through a hello or her smile," longtime friend Nikki Lecompte said. "She was just a very gracious person."

Pastors of the church served as pallbearers and carried Dr. Earl's body to the hearse at the end of the service. Pastor Walter August Jr. said it was on his heart to honor her in that way.

"She has been the main person who has impacted and drawn so many people to this church, so her service had to be on a pastorial level," Pastor August said.

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