Vigil held for Culpeper family slain in apparent murder-suicide

CULPEPER, Va. (WJLA) – The Culpeper community gathered at Culpeper Baptist Church Wednesday night to honor and remember a local family slain in an apparent murder-suicide.

Shauna Washington, 35, and her three children—Onesha, 13, Onya, 6, and Olivia, 4—were found shot dead Sunday in their home on Rixeyville Road. Washington’s mother made the grisly discovery after the family didn’t show up for church. Police believe they were killed by the family’s patriarch, 35-year-old Clarence Washington.

Some of the people who lit candles for the Washingtons at Wednesday night’s vigil didn’t know the victims, but still came out to pay their respects. In this community of families and children, what hurts most is the loss of the three little girls. Neighbor after neighbor told ABC 7 News they just didn’t see the tragedy coming.

“I got kids … it just hurts my heart,” said family friend Derrick Long.

Neighbor Mary Dolinger said, “You never know who people are. It just makes you feel like life is more precious and you just hug your kids a little closer.”

Culpeper investigators believe the incident was a murder-suicide—that Clarence Washington killed himself after shooting his wife and children.

“I can’t even wrap my head around it yet,” said family friend Robin Johnson. “I came out to pay my respects for her and her family, and to show that they meant a lot to a lot of people.”

Mourners told ABC 7 News that the Washingtons seemed happy on the outside; the parents appeared hardworking and the family was often seen at community events. The Washington girls were also popular at school.

Some mourners said the tragedy was a community wake-up call.

“Most of the time we are slightly disconnected; everybody does their own thing,” said Erick Kalenga, who organized the vigil. “But I think it’s important to engage in one another’s lives; to become a real community is to be in each other’s lives.”

Free counseling and support services were offered at the vigil.

Community groups are raising money for funerals for Shauna Washington and her three daughters. Services will be held at Culpeper Baptist Church on Friday, Aug. 15.