ST. JOHNS, Ariz. – People in this small, tight-knit community are reeling from the killing of a well-liked man police say was shot by his own 8-year-old son, and they will likely turn out in droves for his funeral.
"I don't think this church is big enough to handle it all," said the Very Rev. John Paul Sauter of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, a co-worker who also rented a room from him, were found dead inside Romero's home — one at the entrance and one in an upstairs room. Police charged Romero's son with two counts of premeditated murder.
"The recent tragedy in our community has been very sad, an incident that makes us ask 'Why?' yet pulls our citizens together with love and support," said Ross Overson, mayor of the town in eastern Arizona. "Without exception, the entire community has been affected by this tragic loss. No community can begin to understand how something like this could happen."
Ask anyone here, and chances are they know a member of the Romero family.
"Everybody knows them because there's like 100 of them," said Marybeth Ellsworth, who played the piano at Romero's wedding in September. "They're very well-liked in the community."
A prayer service was scheduled Sunday for Romero, and his funeral Mass was set for Monday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
Resident Flynt Smith said Romero and Romans were "the best neighbors we've ever had." They helped out when he was installing sprinklers in his yard and when his roof needed repairs, he said.
Such relationships are common in St. Johns, a town of about 4,000 people 170 miles northeast of Phoenix, helping draw new people to the community and ensuring that those who were born there stick around as longtime residents, said Smith's wife, Amber.
"I feel you help each other raise each other's children, and you don't see that anymore," she said.
Chelsie Jaramillo, who moved into the house across the street from Vincent Romero just two weeks ago with her husband and two children, said Romero's wife, Tiffany, welcomed her and told her to holler if she ever needed anything.
"They were really nice," said Jaramillo, 19.
At St. John the Baptist, Romero sang in the choir and his wife had also signed up. The couple spent two years preparing for marriage, and when they tied the knot in September the "church was packed," Sauter said.
"Because both their parents were divorced, they wanted to make sure their marriage lasted until death, and it did," Sauter said.
Romero had full custody of the 8-year-old boy and the marriage made Tiffany Romero his stepmother. The boy's mother had visited St. Johns from Mississippi last weekend and returned to Arizona after the shootings that took place Wednesday, said Apache County Attorney Brad Carlyon.
Only two others have been killed in the town in the past 20 years.
"We're still in shock," said Carl Hamblin, who used to coach Romero in Little League. "This is so out of the norm, and to this day, I don't believe it could happen again."
Residents, religious organizations, the school district and local businesses were preparing food for the family and offering support and counseling to everyone affected by what Overson calls an "unexplainable heartache."
"God, time and the gracious service of our residents will heal each of us as we move forward," Overson said. "That is what our city is about."