Picture courtesy of the French family
Picture courtesy of the French family
Reidsville, NC -- Hundreds of people waited in long lines Tuesday night to pay their respects to the victims of Saturday's home invasion in Bethany.
The Reidsville Christian Church hosted a visitation for Troy and LaDonna French. People began arriving an hour before it started at 4 p.m., and the line to enter the church stretched all the way to South Park Road.
A spill-over lot across the street at a school was also packed.
South Park Street, near the church, was lined with cars. People walked out of the wake clinging to each other.
The French family attends a smaller church down the road, but the visitation was held at the larger Reidsville Christian Church to accommodate more people.
"We're not doing anything that every other church in the county wouldn't be willing to do," senior minister Shannon Newsome said. "It's a community loss. We're a part of the community and we're just hoping that our facilities will allow just as many people as possible to be able to come alongside this family, to love on them and support them."
A funeral for the couple is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the same church.
Basketball games scheduled for Tuesday night between Rockingham County High School and Morehead High School were postponed in deference to the ceremony. Rockingham County Schools spokeswoman Karen Hyler said the decision was made so as not to interfere with the visitation. The games were rescheduled for Wednesday night.
The Frenches were shot and killed on Saturday at their home in the Bethany community in Rockingham County. By all accounts, the couple was well-liked and deeply respected by people across the area.
LaDonna French worked for Shapiro Eye Care and Troy French worked for Duke Energy. Both companies hung wreathes at their offices in memory of the couple and issued statements expressing their grief.
Those statements and feelings have been echoed by people all over Rockingham County since Saturday. The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday morning that it didn't have an update to release about the search for the couple's killer.
Several in attendance at the visitation wanted to share their thoughts with News 2.
"When we first got here the line was just to where they were starting to turn to the grass," said Amber Sage who said she didn't even know the family.
"The church is completely packed. The pews are full," said Dawn Patteson, Troy's second cousin. "They've got a big screen on the wall, showing pictures.
"Everybody wants to show them how much we love them and care for them," she continued. "But you want to give them their space too. It's such a hard time for them"
Betsy Allen is on LaDonna's side of the family and said she can't find the right words to tell the grieving children.
"I don't know what to say to them. I hugged them. I told them I loved them," Betsy said.
Those we spoke with described the deceased couple as very giving and community-oriented. "They loved their family and loved the community and tried to keep the family involved in the community. Such friendly people. Even where they worked," said Dawn.
"Our prayers are with everybody and our support and our love goes out to each and every one of them and our hearts go out to the family," Debra Chilton, a family friend said.
Aaron Griffin, a community member who said he went to school with the couple's daughter said, "I just think it's all very upsetting and i just hope they find the guy that did it."
To the perpetrator, Betsy added, "turn yourself in and face what you've done. You've devastated a lot of people. A lot of people. Not just the family. Look at all of the people out here."
Like Dawn, those who spoke with News 2 say they ask for prayers for the grieving family and hope and authorities find and bring any suspects to justice.
WFMY News 2