Memorial service held to honor York County family killed in mass shooting

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 4:29 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Four victims of the York County mass shooting were laid to rest in Rock Hill Wednesday afternoon.

Dr. Robert Lesslie, Barbara Lesslie, Adah Lesslie and Noah Lesslie were honored in a memorial service at West End Baptist Church in Rock Hill Wednesday.According to an obituary posted in The Herald, Dr. J. Barry Dagenhart and Reverand John Oliphant are officiating the service.

The memorial service was also streamed online.

A spokesperson for the family gave WBTV permission to share the livestream in its broadcasts. In an emailed exchange, the spokesperson said:

“The family believes that sharing the Word and what their parents, Adah, and Noah believed is a positive. You have permission to use the footage.”

In his opening remarks, Senior Pastor for First ARP Church Rock Hill, Dr. J. Barry Dagenhart, said prayers were pouring in from across the world. Dagenhart said he heard from people as far away as Switzerland and Germany. They hosted the memorial service at West End Baptist Church because it could hold twice as many people as the Lesslie’s church, according to Dagenhart.

Hope was the theme of Dagenhart’s remarks during the service.

“Even in the midst of God’s wonderful blessings, we must still assume and know that death will come should the Lord wait to return,” Dagenhart said. “Even though we grieve … we grieve not as those who have no hope.”

Dagenhart shared stories of Robert, Barbara, Adah and Noah’s exemplary servants of God. He shared how Adah and Noah recently welcomed the newest member of their church on his first day.

“There Adah and Noah came and stood on either side of him while he played just like they were wrapping him up in their arms. And he said it made such a tremendous impact upon him,” Dagenhart described.

He said Barbara was passionate about teaching bible study at the church and at Camp Joy where the Lesslie’s volunteered. He said Barbara’s plans and décor for lessons were often elaborate.

“One day the fire marshal was there, and he came out of that room in awe with how many light she had in that room,” Dagenhart said.

He also credited Dr. Robert Lesslie, who served as an elder at First ARP church of Rock Hill, for prompting the church to partner with a primarily African American congregation. Dagenhart says this happened long before recent events of racial unrest in the country.

“This started our long-term relationship with Mt. Prospect Baptist in Rock Hill,” Dagenhart said.

Dagenhart encouraged those who were listening to trust in God in order to heal and move forward.

According to the obituary, Robert and Barbara met at Erskine College. They had been married for more than 47 years. Here is an excerpt from the obituary:

“Mz. B” (a.k.a. Miss Hannigan, Mother Goose, co-author of the Come See Me Theme song, and Nana) is a bright shining light that fills every space with joy, enthusiasm, glitter, love, and youthful exuberance. She has never met a problem that could not be solved with a hot glue gun, a diet coke, or a song and dance. She never met a stranger she would not embrace. And she never ate a meal that wasn’t her “absolute favorite ever.” Barbara’s well-worn Bible is filled with notes in the margins and tributes to loved ones. Mz. B’s passion was sharing the Gospel with adults, children, and the special needs community by teaching and walking in faith. Robert is the quintessential renaissance man, who at any given moment could be found . . . * Beekeeping, * Bagpiping, * Propagating (both children and plants), * Writing, * Exercising, * Spoiling grandchildren, * Patching up aches and pains, * Boardgaming (with loose rule interpretations), * Pursuing expertise in countless subjects, and * Actively seeking ways to avoid retirement.”

Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, are Barbara and Dr. Lesslie’s grandchildren.

The Rock Hill School District confirmed they were enrolled in Cherry Park Elementary School’s Language Immersion program.

Rev. John Oliphant of First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, where the Lesslies worshipped, described Adah and Noah as “precious children who loved Jesus.”

The Lesslies were among six people who were shot and killed at Dr. Lesslie and Barbara Lesslie’s home on Marshall Road one week ago.

York County Sheriff’s deputies say former NFL player Phillip Adams was the gunman.

He is accused of shooting and killing two air conditioning technicians, James Lewis and Robert Shook, who were working outside the Lesslie’s house on Wednesday afternoon.

Deputies say he then shot and killed Dr. Lesslie, Barbara Lesslie and their grandchildren, Adah and Noah Lesslie in a back bedroom of the home.

After an hours-long standoff that stretched into Thursday morning, Adams was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside his parent’s home. Adams was said to be living with his parents on Marshall Road. The Lesslie family lived roughly a quarter mile down the street.

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said in a press conference last week they were investigating whether Adams had any connection to the Lesslie family.

Investigators have not released any possible motive for the shootings.

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast confirmed Adams’ body will undergo an autopsy to determine whether he suffered from CTE. CTE is the common term for brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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