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Texas gunman had texted threats to his mother-in-law, who attended the church he attacked

By Nancy Dillon • Nov 6, 2017 at 10:17 PM

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — The mass shooting at a Texas church that left 26 people dead, including an 18-month-old child, may have involved a domestic dispute with relatives who were in the congregation, officials said Monday, discounting religion as a possible motive.

Devin Patrick Kelley had threatened his mother-in-law — who sometimes attended the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs — over text messages before attacking the church on Sunday.

The gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history also killed his grandmother-in-law Lula Woicinski White inside the church he targeted Sunday, a relative confirmed to the New York Daily News.

White, 71, was a devout member of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and was attending services when her granddaughter’s husband, Devin Patrick Kelley, opened fire, killing 26 parishioners, the relative said.

“My sister was a wonderful, caring person — a God-loving person. She loved the people in her church. They were all her best friends,” Mary Mishler Clyburn told The News.

“I miss her badly already. We texted every day. We loved each other to the moon and back,” she said, breaking down in tears.

“The whole family is very devastated. This is not something we ever expected. It’s just, I don’t know how to put it into words. They’re hurting a lot. The whole family is hurting a lot. I don’t know where we’re going from here. We’re going to have to take one day at a time,” she said.

Clyburn, 74, confirmed that Lula’s daughter is Michelle Shields, 54, the mother of Kelley’s second wife, Danielle.

She declined to discuss Danielle’s relationship with Kelley.

“I’m not at liberty to give any information. You would have to speak with Michelle about that. They spoke with authorities. All of it is under investigation,” Clyburn said.

Asked if she heard Kelley had been threatening the family, she said, “Not that I’m aware of.”

“This is a shock,” she said. “(Michelle) lost a lot of her friends in that church. They were my friends a well.”

According to police, Kelley was involved in a “domestic situation” and had been sending “threatening texts” to his mother-in-law before the massacre.

“This was not racially motivated. It wasn’t over religious beliefs,” Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Monday. “There was a domestic situation going on with the family and in-laws.”

Clyburn said Lula White’s husband died a few months ago, in July, compounding the family’s grief.

“My sister knew God, and I know that’s where she went. That’s giving me strength,” she said.

She thanked the community in Sutherland Springs for coming together in the aftermath of the horrific tragedy.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Clyburn told The News. “Everyone came out. The whole community came out and had food and water for us, plugs to charge our cellphones. We had the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. We had ministers from all over. Everyone was just wonderful, with everybody trying to console one another.”

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©2017 New York Daily News

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