Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published November 29 2012
UPDATED: Hundreds turn out to mourn 3 children slain in ND home
Their parents, Kevin Schuster and Rebecca Schuster, each sprinkled holy water on the caskets and prayed at each one as friends and family members – including the three children’s two siblings - huddled against the north wind that froze tears.
Benjamin Schuster, 13, Julia Schuster, 10 and Luke Schuster, 6, were killed Nov. 18, with their grandmother, Martha Johnson, by someone using a high-powered rifle in Johnson’s New Town home, southwest of Minot.
Kalcie Eagle, 21, of New Town, has been identified by the FBI as a person of interest in the case, after he killed himself with a knife hours after the four were slain.
The evil done to the three children can’t overcome God’s love, the Rev. John Kleinschmidt, pastor of the parish, told the 350 who nearly filled the “cathedral of the prairie” that dominates the skyline of this hamlet 30 miles north of Grand Forks.
He told the congregation that Jesus was now welcoming the three children in heaven, and pointed to the large round stained glass window behind the altar, showing Jesus embracing children.“You are God’s children and you are home,” Kleinschmidt said.
This Polish parish sang together "Serdeczna Matko," of their "Beloved Mother," caring for children, in Polish without needing to look at any printed page.
Kleinschmidt baptized Luke as a baby, and remembered him as “a jokester.” Julia was a “socialite,” with “bubblyness” who would smilingly keep going back into the line after Mass each Sunday to shake his hand a handful of times.
“It always put a smile on my face,” Kleinschmidt said.
The oldest, Benjamin, was serious about his Catholic faith, the pastor said.
“Benjy died with a scapular over his chest,” the priest told the congregation, referring to a devotional piece of cloth worn often on a leather string, often given to children at their first communion.
Christian Schuster, 12, survived the shooting by hiding under the body of a sibling; he called 911. Ava, 8, was out of the house, sledding when the gunman came in about 3 p.m. that Sunday. Kevin and Rebecca held tight to Christian and Ava during the funeral and during the long, cold walk out to the grave site.
No reason for the killings has been released by the FBI, which is in charge of the investigation because it involves a tribal member – Eagle - on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, owned by the Three Affiliated Tribes.
The Schuster children and their mother had moved recently from Warsaw to New Town and Martha Johnson was caring for them in her home.
Today friends from New Town made the long drive to grieve.
Katie Decoteau, 13, and her brother, Khael Decoteau, 10, came with their mother, Kelly McGrady, the 300 miles across North Dakota to the funeral.
“Luke was in my catechism class at St. Anthony’s in New Town,” McGrady said. “Katie was in class with Benjamin, Khael with Julia.”
“They were very knowledgeable and very kind,” McGrady said of the Schuster children.