A week after his estranged wife and two youngest children were gunned down in their Mesa home, Paul Lovell finally got to say goodbye.
Lovell and other family members Wednesday viewed the bodies of Tammy Lovell, 15-year-old Cassandra and 10-year-old Jacob at a Phoenix funeral home amid preparations for today’s memorial service in Chandler.
“I’ve got to hold my babies,” said Paul Lovell. “I feel so guilty and helpless.”
The Lovells and brothers Steven and Shane Duffy were shot to death early Feb. 21 in a rented home they shared in east Mesa.
Police have not made any arrests, but on Tuesday named a former employer, William Craig Miller, as an investigative lead. Miller is accused of torching his Scottsdale home last November for the insurance money and Steven Duffy was accused of helping him. Steven Duffy and Tammy Lovell then worked for police as informants, providing information that led to Miller’s arrest.
The Chandler home of Tammy Lovell’s older sister, Luhanna Chesley, has been the gathering place for the farflung extended family.
Air mattresses lie stacked in a corner of the living room. Framed family photos and pages from Chesley’s many scrapbooks are spread across tables. Boxes of clothing, jewelry, art work, knickknacks and other items of Tammy Lovell and the children — carefully selected by family members before the rest of their belongings go to charity — waited in the front hallway, prepared for shipment.
Tammy Lovell’s oldest daughter, 17-year-old Heidi, came from Manassas, Va., with her 4-week-old son — the grandson Tammy Lovell never held. Another son, Derango, 16, came with his father, Paul Lovell, from Ocala, Fla. Tammy Lovell’s brother, Joseph Morehart, and aunt, Donna Phipps, also flew in from Virginia, and Tammy Lovell’s parents, Patricia and Charles Morehart, traveled from Sandy, Utah.
They painted a picture of a loving, though sometimes troubled, family that stayed in close contact and supported Tammy Lovell through years of drug and alcohol abuse.
“Tammy lived on the wild side and she lived every day to the fullest,” said Phipps of her niece. “You never knew what color hair she was going to have.”
Patricia Morehart said her daughter and grandchildren were making a new start in Arizona, and appeared to be adjusting well. The family was fond of Tammy Lovell’s boyfriend, Steven Duffy, and his brother, Shane, who was Cassandra’s boyfriend.
In a Christmas photo taken at Chesley’s house, a beaming Cassandra is flanked by Jacob and Shane as they proudly display gingerbread houses.
“She was a blessing in my life,” Chesley said of Cassandra, who lived with her and her two children for nearly two years. “She became our daughter.”
Paul Lovell said Cassandra wanted to move back to Florida with Shane Duffy, and he was prepared to come to Arizona to get them.
He’s angered by reports that Tammy Lovell was afraid for her family’s safety because of her involvement in Miller’s arson case.
“I strongly feel in my heart that if I’d have known this, I could have saved my children,” he said.
Patricia Morehart has seen Tammy Lovell through many crises and brought Jacob to live with her more than once.
For now, she is focused on her family, the memorial service and keeping her daughter and grandchildren in the public eye to help police catch those responsible for their deaths.
“My time for grieving can come later,” Patricia Morehart said. “I’ve got to get these kids through this.”
A memorial service for Tammy Lovell and her children, Cassandra and Jacob, is scheduled for 9 a.m. today at Faith Family Church, 101 E. Comstock Drive, Chandler. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Tammy Lovell Memorial Fund at the Arizona Federal Credit Union, account #625143.