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Ronald Harris Murder: Woodrow Karey, former parishioner of La. church, accused of killing pastor during service

Woodrow Karey, 53, accused of killing La. pastor Ronald Harris Sr. during service. CBS affiliate WWLTV

Woodrow Karey, 53, is accused of killing La. pastor Ronald Harris Sr. during a service.
CBS affiliate WWLTV
(CBS/AP) NEW ORLEANS - A 53-year-old man is accused of killing a southwest Louisiana pastor during a revival service Friday, and the victim's daughter says that if her father could talk to his killer, he'd say, "I forgive you and I love you."

Ronald Harris Sr., 53, is referred to by his daughter, Talisha Harris, as a family man who loved to fish and a minister who preached both hellfire and God's love.

She said Sunday the man accused of shooting him in Lake Charles was once a member of the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center but left about four years ago.

A motive in the killing remains unknown.

The alleged killer, Woodrow Karey of Lake Charles, La., stopped going to church without saying why, but didn't display any animosity, Harris said.

"One question I do want to ask him is why," the 31-year-old said. "My dad had a big heart. He'd help anybody."

Karey, who has no known history of crime or mental troubles, called to surrender minutes after the shooting Friday night and told deputies where to find a shotgun and a .22-caliber pistol he had left in nearby woods, said Kim Myers, spokeswoman for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office.

He was booked on a second-degree murder charge and remained jailed Sunday, his bond set at $1 million.

The preaching had not yet begun Friday night when the gunman burst into the sanctuary. The congregation of 65 people or more was waiting for some out-of-town visitors, Harris said.

Her father was singing. So was she, as a member of the five-person praise group that accompanied him.

Then, she said, the woman who had been handing out visitor packets at the front door ran in, shouting, "He got a gun! He got a gun! He got a gun!"

"He came in down the middle aisle. He shot at my daddy" but hit a flower pot, Harris said. "My daddy ran. He shot him in the back. When he fell, he came closer and shot him again."

The gunman ran out a side door, she said.

Harris said her father always made time for his own children, and acted as a father to many other children. "The people in our church, he'd treat them as if they were family," she said.

A candlelight service is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Tabernacle of Praise Worship, and a memorial service at 7 p.m. Thursday at True Light Baptist Church in Lake Charles.

Harris' funeral will be Saturday morning at Agape Love Church in Natchitoches, with his wake Friday evening.

Harris said that forgiveness and love wouldn't be her father's only message to his killer.

"He'd say, 'Come to church. And let God visit (your) mind.'"

  • Crimesider Staff

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