Law enforcement officials said Monday that Sunday’s Texas church shooting, which left 26 people dead and 20 injured, was likely driven by the killer’s anger towards his estranged wife’s family.
Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said it was “a domestic situation going on” and that Kelley had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, the mother of Kelley’s estranged wife, Danielle. Shields was a member of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs but she did not attend church there Sunday. Unfortunately, her mother, Lula White, did attend and was killed in the hail of gunfire.
Domestic situations were nothing new for Kelley.
In 2012, while stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, he was charged with assault of his wife and toddler stepson. According to Air Force records, he repeatedly struck, choked and kicked his first wife, beginning just months after their marriage. He hit his stepson’s head with “a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.” He also pled guilty to intentionally doing it.
As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped charges that Kelley repeatedly pointed a loaded gun at his wife. He was eventually sentenced in late 2012 to twelve month’s confinement and reduction to the lowest possible rank, “prisoner.” His first wife, Tessa Kelley, divorced him while was confined. After his confinement, he was court-martialed and forced out of the Air Force with a bad conduct discharge.
In addition to Kelley’s court-martial, he had been investigated on a rape complaint in 2013, although he was not charged. Records show Kelley was also charged with cruelty to animals in 2014, pleaded guilty and was given a deferred sentence.
With so much family violence in his background, a big question we’re left with is what was his childhood like? Where did his rage come from? The vast majority of killers were abused or abandoned as children. That’s where the rage began. We hope some good reporters can let us all know, in hopes nothing like this will ever happen again.