CBS – Supporters have donated more than $270,000 in an online fundraising campaign for Texas teen Cassidy Stay, the lone survivor of a shooting massacre at her home last week that left her mother, father, and four siblings dead.
Thousands of well-wishers took to the Gofundme.com site to donate and leave comments of support for Stay, 15, who spoke publicly for the first time Saturday at a public memorial for her family. “Praying for Cassidy and her strength through this tragic event and beyond,” one commenter wrote. “You are a beautiful and courageous person and you will rise above this!”
More than 9,300 people have shared the donation drive on social media, many using the phrase, “Stay Strong.” According to the site, the funds will be transferred to a trust fund set up by family for the teen survivor.
Stay, 15, was an intended victim of accused gunman Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, but survived when a bullet fired at her only grazed her head. The rest of her family was murdered execution style in their Spring, Texas home Wednesday. Killed in the shooting were parents Katie, 33, and Stephen Stay, 39, and their two boys, ages 4 and 14; and two girls, ages 7 and 9.
Haskell had once been married to Stay’s aunt, Melanie Kaye Haskell. Police say he had become angered that he could not find his ex-wife, who had fled to Texas from Utah to get away from him. Prosecutors say Haskell, who had a history of domestic abuse, forced his way into the home of his former sister-in-law and held them hostage until their parents arrived, then tied them all up and opened fire.
Once Haskell left, Stay called police and told them what happened and warned them that he had planned to attack her grandparents next. After a short chase, Haskell was cornered and arrested, police say.
Haskell collapsed during an initial court hearing Friday. He may use the insanity defense, reports CBS affiliate KHOU.
At the Saturday memorial service, Stay’s grandfather Roger Lyon spoke, hailing the teen as a hero. “We might be mourning the deaths of 20, yes I said 20, people today,” Lyon said, “including myself and nearly all of our children and grandchildren.”
Stay addressed the cheering crowd at Lemm Elementary School in Spring, where her siblings had attended,, thanking supporters and saying she is “on a straightforward path to a full recovery.”
“I know that my mom, dad, Bryan, Emily, Becca and Zach are in a much better place and that I’ll be able to see them again one day,” she said.
A funeral is planned for the Stay family at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Hafer Road in Houston. A visitation is Tuesday evening at the Klein Funeral Home in Spring.
The family belonged to the Church of Latter Day Saints, KHOU reports.
Stay has reportedly told friends and family that angels helped save her.
“She said it felt as though those angels were there with her,” said her grandfather Lyon, according to the station; “putting their hands over her mouth, whispering to her to ‘be quiet.’”