Family And Friends Hold Vigil For Ray Family

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – There was good news Wednesday night regarding the little survivor of a violent night in south St. Louis that left most of her family dead.  Friends and relatives said McKenzie Ray was still hospitalized, but improving greatly.  She suffered severe smoke inhalation.  They said she’d begun opening her eyes, but they did not update her official ‘listed’ condition.

Authorities said she was in critical condition the night of the murders.  

More than 100 of those friends and relatives gathered for a vigil at the murder scene in the 2100 block of Jefferson.  They started showing up before 6:00 p.m.  The last person left after 9:00 p.m., though people continued stopping by to add to a memorial on the steps of the Ray family home. It was not an easy place to be, considering what happened there Saturday night on the third anniversary of another St. Louis area mass family murder:  the Coleman family killings in Columbia, Illinois.

“I pray that you will help us to wake up from our stupor and to get alive again. Lord, I pray that we will get sick and tired of the mess,” said Pastor Ray Sewell of the St. Louis Harvest Church, where murder victims Gwendolyn Ray, 50, and her daughter, Breiana Ray, 22, had been members.

“I can’t believe that three generations are gone,” said Karen Haynes, who worked with Gwendolyn and also belongs to the church. “They both had beautiful voices and sang in the choir and sang solos in church.  I’ll always remember [G] smile.  You never saw her without a smile.”

Brandon Howard, McKenzie’s father, could hardly speak as more than 100 gathered at the scene with him.

“She’s doing good. She’s going to pull through.  I’ve got to be strong for my daughter,” he said, before breaking down and sobbing.    

The Rays and Breiana’s 10-month-old son, Aiden Lawson, died Saturday night when authorities said Lawon’s father, Eric Lawson, 23, shot the two women, then started the building on fire, locking the door behind him.  Aiden died from smoke inhalation.  Firefighters rescued his older sister, McKenzie.

“It’s very sad,” said family friend, Candy Kelley.  
“Show respect!” said Breiana’s father, Kent Adams, speaking to the crowd.  “This was not respectful.  This was not respectful.  It was mean, cruel and one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life.  But I tell you this, even right now, evil tries to surround me but it can’t do that. If you’ve got God, you’ve got the Holy Spirit, you’ve got Jesus Christ. That’s all you need.”

“Let’s not let this be in vain.  Let’s do something different in St. Louis together,” Pastor Sewell prayed aloud.

You can donate to the Gwendolyn Ray Memorial Fund to help cover the expense of three funerals and McKenzie’s future needs at any Bank of America. 

Eric Lawson remained locked up on a total of 12 counts — including arson, and three counts of murder.

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