USAF retiree, wife among dead in Texas church massacre

The couple were recently reunited after working at separate military installations, and had decided to try out a new church for the first time

USAF retiree, wife among dead in Texas church massacre

Kenneth and Irene Hernandez pay their respects as they visit a makeshift memorial with crosses placed near the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing and wounding many. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Matthew Santoni
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Beaver County native Scott Marshall and his wife Karen were trying out a new church Sunday because she had recently moved back to their home in La Vernia, Texas, after finishing an assignment at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base, family members said.

In what was the first and only time they worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the Marshalls were among 26 people shot and killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a service there. Authorities said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute .

Scott Marshall, 58, was retired from the Air Force and had been working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base, about 35 miles west of La Vernia, said his father Robert Marshall, 85, of Crescent. Scott and Karen met while they were in the service together more than 30 years ago.

Scott grew up in Hopewell, Beaver County, and joined the Air Force after graduating from high school.

Karen was a Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard and had just finished a posting at Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Marshall said. Scott was driving her back to Texas, where she would officially retire. The couple stopped in Pennsylvania on their way home to spend a few days with Scott's family. They threw a birthday party for Robert two Sundays ago.

“It was a surprise party for my dad. He thought they were just celebrating her retirement,” said Scott's younger sister Holly Hannum, 48, of Chippewa.

They left last Tuesday to continue on their way back to Texas, Hannum said. They were just settling back into life together, she said.

Hannum said Karen, who grew up in Nevada, wasn't raised Baptist but she found a Baptist church that she liked in Maryland. She wanted to try another one of the same denomination when she got back to Texas.

“They wanted to try a Baptist church that was just 10 minutes from their house,” Hannum said.

Hannum was just returning from church herself when she said she felt a wave of apprehension come over her. Her heart sank when she saw news of a shooting in Texas and her brother wouldn't answer her text messages. She reached Scott's son Brandon, who told her that he was awaiting word from authorities about what happened to Scott and Karen.

The family found out early Monday morning — on Robert's 85th birthday — that Scott and Karen were among the dead. Their red Xterra SUV was visible in many of the TV shots taken outside the church, Hannum said.

As of Monday night, the family was preparing for a trip to Texas — complicated by Robert's need for an oxygen machine — by air and by car.

In addition to his father and sister Holly, Scott is survived by sisters Kim, Laurie and Amy; son, Brandon; daughters Martina and Kara; and five grandchildren. The Marshall family could not name all of Karen's siblings.

Funeral arrangements were being planned for Texas, Hannum said.

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