SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — As usual, John Holcombe posted his Sunday school lesson online a day ahead. It was about an Old Testament miracle.
Holcombe was expecting a small miracle of his own. His wife, a widow and mother of five, was pregnant with their first child. But the following morning, his family would bear an unspeakable burden: nearly a third of the fatalities in Texas’ worst mass shooting.
The massacre inside their church in the tiny Texas town of Sutherland Springs spared Holcombe’s life, but not the lives of his wife, three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece.
They were among 26 people fatally shot during the shooting rampage Sunday that also killed several members of at least one other extended family, a couple visiting for the first time, the pastor’s teenage daughter and other churchgoers. Investigators said the victims ranged in age from 18 months old to 77 years old. Hundreds of shell casings and 15 magazines that hold 30 rounds were found at the church, authorities said.
Holcombe and his 36-year-old wife, Crystal, had recently married, said Julius Kepper, who lives about two blocks from the church.
‘‘She was starting her life all over again,’’ he told The Associated Press. ‘‘That’s a crying shame.’’
Holcombe suffered shrapnel wounds and Crystal’s youngest child, Evelyn, was grazed by bullets but both were discharged from the hospital on Monday, Crystal’s aunt, Michele Hill, told the AP. Crystal’s eldest child, Phillip, had stayed home from church that day, Hill said. She added that Crystal was due in early April.
‘‘They had actually just found out. They didn’t think it was possible so this was just a miracle baby,’’ Hill said.
Just two days before the massacre, Crystal Holcombe’s Facebook page was suffused with a mother’s pride. Her daughters Emily and Megan had finished third and first in their respective categories in a 4-H bakeoff and displayed their handiwork in posted photos. Emily was among the children killed Sunday.
But on Sunday afternoon, the page went grim.
‘‘Keep the Holcombe family in your prayers,’’ a friend posted.
Nick Uhlig, Crystal Holcombe’s cousin, told the Houston Chronicle that she was a devoted mother.
‘‘She doesn’t even drink, smoke, or nothing,’’ he told the newspaper. ‘‘She just takes care of kids; she raises goats and makes homemade cheese. That kind of thing, you know? They don’t go out dancing or anything like that. They’re real old-fashioned, down-to-earth.’’
Also killed was 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy, daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, who were out of town when the attack occurred.
‘‘We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends,’’ Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message. ‘‘Neither of us has made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as i can.’’
The teen’s uncle, Scott Pomeroy, posted a photo on his Facebook page of the smiling girl poolside in a bathing suit.
‘‘Heaven truly gained a real beautiful angel this morning along with many more,’’ Scott Pomeroy, lamented in the social media post. All those robbed of life in Sunday’s bloodbath, he wrote, ‘‘have taken their last breath of dirty air and took their first breath of heavenly air with new bodies with no pain and suffering.’’
Cynthia Rangel, 50, a resident of nearby Stockdale, recalled Annabelle Pomeroy.
‘‘She was very quiet, shy, always smiling, and helpful to all,’’ Rangel said.
A local emergency medical technician, Rangel said she knew three people who were hospitalized after the shooting and undergoing surgery. ‘‘This just all seems like it’s not real.’’
Michael Ward rushed to the church after he was abruptly awoken by his wife, Leslie, when she heard a peal of gunfire from that direction as she set up a yard sale. Ward told The Dallas Morning News he found and carried out his 5-year-old nephew, Ryland, who had four gunshot wounds.
The boy was flown to University Hospital in nearby San Antonio, but the child’s mother and two of his sisters were killed. On Monday, the yard sale was still set up, with clothes laid out or hung on plastic racks, along with kitchen items. No one was there.
Hank Summers, a local who had moved to San Antonio, said via text message that his uncle, David Colbath, survived five gunshots that required extensive surgery and skin grafts to save an arm.
Lula Woicinski White, 71, was attending the service and died in the shooting, according to family members. Her stated occupation on Facebook: doing whatever was needed at the church.
Karen and Scott Marshall had recently retired to Texas from Pennsylvania and were visiting the church for the first time when they were killed, Scott’s father, Robert Marshall, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He said Karen Marshall had returned to Texas after finishing an assignment at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, while her husband, an Air Force retiree, had been working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Sutherland Springs.Material from the Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.