Vigil set for young victims of Bay City shooting

Dec. 2, 2011 at 6:02 a.m.
Updated Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.

A candlelight vigil will be Wednesday for the four young children who died after their father shot them, before killing himself in Bay City.

The vigil will be one week after the shooting.

The children's mother, Laura Gonzalez, 24, who was also shot, remains in Hermann Memorial Hospital in Houston.

Arrangements are being made by the family of the father, Jose Avila, 24, to ship him to Mexico for his burial, said Justice of the Peace Jeannette Bell, who pronounced him dead.

Gina Aguilar, owner of Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant, said she is the emergency contact for Laura Gonzalez and she received the phone call when Gonzalez was taken to the hospital.

Gonzalez worked on and off for two years as a waitress in Aguilar's restaurant. Aguilar said Avila was very controlling and he would often pull Gonzalez out of work.

Aguilar last saw Gonzalez on Tuesday picking up her children from the Bay City Head Start.

"We were in shock when we heard the news. We tried to convince her to leave him but she never did," Aguilar said. Aguilar said Gonzalez was afraid to leave her husband because he would always threaten to kill her and the children.

"We would always tell her that we thought if she didn't leave him, he would do something crazy," Aguilar said. "We just never thought that he would hurt the kids."

The shootings occurred at the family's home in the 2700 block of 10th Street. The couple argued and Avila shot Gonzalez twice while in the house, police said.

She fled outside, seeking help, but was shot a third time.

Avila then turned the gun on his three sons and daughter, ranging in age from 18 months to 5. He then shot himself, police said.

Miguel Gonzalez, 5, and Daniel Gonzalez, 3, died Wednesday night in a Houston hospital, and the other two children, Shaun Gonzalez, 4, and Cecilia Gonzalez, 18 months, died Thursday afternoon in a Houston hospital.

Gonzalez is in a drug induced coma at Hermann Memorial Hospital because bullets damaged her internal organs and the doctors do not want her to move, Aguilar said she was told.

Gonzalez does not know that her children are dead,, Aguilar said.

Aguilar, who is in contact with Gonzalez's family, said her mother is by her side at the Houston hospital. Her sister will be flying in from Colorado in the next few days.

The children remain at the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office in Houston. Their funeral arrangements have not been made, Aguilar said.

Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant will have a barbecue benefit on Wednesday to raise money for the children's funeral expenses.

Nichols Street Church of Christ Youth Minister Johnathan Dobbs is arranging the candle light vigil for the victims at the request of Bay City Mayor Mark Bricker.

"We thought that Wednesday was a pretty significant day," because it marked a week since the shootings, Dobbs said.

Local ministers are invited to support grievers through prayer and by offering a listening ear.

The vigil will begin with a short service at 6 p.m. on the steps of the Matagorda County Courthouse, followed by individual reflection until 9 p.m.

"It is just an opportunity for people to spend some time there praying together or alone and grieve as they process the events that happened this week," Dobbs said.

Candles will be provided, but members of the community are welcome to bring their own.

"We ask that everybody continue to keep the mother of the victims in their prayers," said Mayor Mark Bricker. "We are fortunate to have a very close-knit community, and that closeness will help us get through this together."



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