SPRING, Texas – Cassidy Stay, 15, is the sole survivor of the worst kind of tragedy, but Saturday at a public memorial program for her slain family, she was the picture of poise and strength.
“Hey guys, I’m really thankful for all the people that have been praying for me and keeping me and my family in their thoughts,” she told hundreds who gathered at Lemm Elementary School in Spring where two of her younger siblings attended.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” she said, “and I’m on a straightforward path to a full recovery.”
The crowd cheered.
A bullet meant for the back of her head, instead deflected off Stay’s finger and merely grazed her head. The rest of her family died after being tied up and shot execution style in their home in the 700 block of Leaflet Lane in Spring on Wednesday.
Stay has told friends and family that angels helped save her.
“When the gunshot went off she was able to-she was in a lot of pain,” said David Bertoch, the Texas president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to which the family belonged. “She has indicated that she wanted to say something. She was hurting so bad but she did feel this presence.”
“She said it felt as though those angels were there with her,” said Stay’s grandfather Roger Lyon, “putting their hands over her mouth, whispering to her to ‘be quiet.’”
The apparent shooter was Ronald Lee Haskell who used to be married to Cassidy Stay’s aunt. Authorities said Haskell was enraged that he could not find his ex-wife.
After he left her family’s home, Cassidy called police and said that her uncle had killed her family, then warned that he was heading to her grandparents’ house to kill everyone there.
Her grandfather, like so many others, said at Saturday’s program that Cassidy is his hero for saving the rest of the family.
“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.”
Meanwhile Haskell may plead insanity. He collapsed during an initial court hearing Friday.
Conversely, Cassidy Stay and the rest of her family are standing tall. They have adopted the motto: “Stay strong.”
Well-wishers released 600 balloons at the end of the memorial program at Lemm Elementary, 100 for each slain member of the Stay family.
“I really like Harry Potter,” Cassidy Stay said. “In ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban,’ Dumbledore says, ‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times.’ 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. Thank you all for coming and for showing support for me and my family. Stay strong,” she said, holding up a hand signal.
The Cassidy Stay Fund has been established online to help the survivor of the tragedy. Organizers say 100 percent of funds raised will be used to pay for funeral arrangements, medical expenses and ongoing care for Cassidy. As of Saturday night more than $237,000 had been raised; the goal is $300,000.