Church Shooting Leaves 5 Family Members Dead

A man barreled into a church service and opened fire, killing four in-laws and wounding another, then abducted his wife and her three children, authorities said.

Anthony Bell, 25, of Baton Rouge, was arrested hours later Sunday at a nearby apartment complex, where his wife was found dead, police said. The children, including an infant, were unharmed.

"This is going to be one of the worst days in the history of our city," said Police Chief Jeff LeDuff. "This is senseless. This is a total waste of human life."

Bell was charged with murder in the deaths of his wife and her grandparents, great aunt and a cousin, officials said. He also was charged with kidnapping and attempted murder.

His wife's mother, church pastor Claudia Brown, was hospitalized in serious condition, police said.

The shooting spree at The Ministry of Jesus Christ church began around 10 a.m. as the service was nearing its end, police said. Church members wept as they watched investigators examine evidence and search for clues.

Hours later, officers responding to a 911 call about a shooting at the apartment complex found 24-year-old Erica Bell dead and Anthony Bell holding the baby, Police Chief Jeff LeDuff said. He was arrested without incident.

Authorities said neither he nor his wife lived at the complex, and it was unclear whether she was killed there.

Police later said Anthony Bell had called 911, reporting that his wife had committed suicide, according to an affidavit.

The other children were apparently dropped off somewhere else before their mother was killed, LeDuff said. It was unclear whether Anthony Bell was the children's father.

Police said the others killed were Erica Bell's grandparents, Leonard Howard, 78, and Gloria Howard, 72; her great aunt, Deloris McGrew, 68, and a cousin Darlene Mills, 47.

LeDuff said he did not know a motive for the shootings, but a relative said Anthony and Erica Bell had domestic problems in the past.

"She was getting on with her life and wanted to keep worshipping and following God, and he just wanted to run on the streets," said Jeffrey Howard, Brown's brother. "He was in and out of her life a lot."

Howard said the pastor had been shot in the back of the head but was able to identify her attacker.

Brown founded the small church and most of its members are relatives. It shares space in an old warehouse with a guitar shop in a nonresidential area of Baton Rouge and is marked with a sign saying, "A family that prays together, stays together."

"Everybody was good people," said congregant Charolyn Green, McGrew's daughter. "That is what they did, they went there every Sunday."