From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Family Tragedy Strikes Adventist Community In Jamaica

Date 08 Apr 2000 02:11:12

April 8, 2000
Adventist Press Service (APD)
Christian B. Schaeffler, Editor-in-chief
Fax +41-61-261 61 18
CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

Family Tragedy Strikes Adventist Community in 

Salem, Jamaica.  Members of the Seventh-day 
Adventist Church in Salem, Jamaica, are grieving 
over the family murder of three girls on March 27.

In the early morning hours, a father attacked his 
common-law wife and four children, killing three 
daughters, Leisha Thomas (21), Lacey Thomas (11) 
and Amanda Thomas (23 months), before setting the 
house on fire and hanging himself. His wife, Ioni 
McKnight, and daughter, Althea Thomas (15), 
survived the attack, although both were seriously 

All the children were members of the Adventist 
church community in Salem, and their mother 
attended occasionally. The father apparently never 
visited the church.
"We are grieving over the whole situation," says 
Pastor Leon Wellington, president of the Seventh-
day Adventist Church in the West Indies. "This is 
an appalling tragedy and we wish it could have 
been averted. We invite our world-wide church 
family to pray with us for those who are grieving, 
both the family and the church members who are 
feeling this loss so keenly."

The local church congregation has launched a 
recovery fund for the survivors and is hosting a 
series of grief management and counselling 
seminars, reports Pastor Anthony Gordon, director 
of Family Life Ministries for the Adventist 
Church's Central Jamaican Conference. Gordon is 
also a qualified marriage and family counsellor 
and is conducting the meetings.

"Last Sunday (April 2) the church was full to 
overflowing for the grief management seminar," 
reports Gordon. "Members of other denominations 
attended, and the whole local community is 
involved. So many have been totally shocked by 
this terrible event. We were pleased that the 
surviving daughter, Althea, has now been released 
from the hospital, and she was there in church 
with us. Sadly, the mother is still in the 
hospital. She was sleeping when the attack 
occurred and was rendered unconscious. She has now 
regained consciousness, but she is unaware of what 
has happened. The family will be breaking the news 
to her."

Speaking for the Adventist community world-wide, 
Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the  Adventist 
Church, expressed his deep sadness for what had 
occurred and offered his sincere condolences.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened at the news of 
this tragic event," he said. "At such times we can 
only turn to our faith in God and trust in Him to 
heal the wounds of pain and grief. Our thoughts 
and prayers go to the family members who are 
grieving and to the whole church and community in 
Salem who have experienced such a distressing 
tragedy." [Reporter: Jonathan Gallagher]

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