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Hundreds mourn pastor's daughter who was shot in head at church

PINELLAS PARK — The flowers were her favorite. The songs were ones she loved. The color scheme — red, black and white — had been planned for her wedding this summer.

On Saturday, several hundred people gathered at Calvary Chapel church on U.S. 19 to remember the life of Hannah Grace Kelley, the young woman who died after a bizarre and tragic shooting accident at her father's church this month.

The two-hour memorial service was filled with reminders of Kelley's favorite things.

Red roses were sprinkled around the sanctuary. Members of her youth group sang worship songs. Chick-fil-A, Hannah Kelley's favorite place to go for her weekly daddy-daughter "date night," set up refreshments in the lobby. And two dance troupes performed in honor of the 20-year-old woman, who had been in ballet since she was a little girl.

"There's symbolism in all of it," her father, pastor Tim Kelley, told the crowd before delivering the eulogy for his daughter.

Hannah Kelley was one of three children, the middle child between an adult brother, Ryan, and a 6-year-old adopted sister, Sadie.

Her mom and dad, Tim and Peggy Kelley, founded the Grace Connection Church, housed at a renovated firehouse at 4017 56th Ave. N in Lealman.

Church had just let out on Feb. 12 when a gunshot rang out.

Authorities said Hannah Kelley's fiance, Dustin Bueller, had been in a church closet with friend John Penu as fellow parishioner Moises Zambrana, 48, showed them his Ruger 9mm.

Bueller, 21, was thinking about buying a gun for his birthday, Pinellas sheriff's officials said.

Zambrana removed the gun's magazine, but forgot there was a round still in the chamber. The gun went off and a bullet tore through a wall into the next room, then pierced Kelley's head. Doctors declared her dead on Feb. 18.

No charges have been filed.

"The investigation is open and ongoing," said Sgt. Tom Nestor of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. "Investigators are working with the State Attorney's Office and the medical examiner."

On Saturday, Tim Kelley didn't shy away from the events that led to his daughter's death. He said he loves Zambrana, and forgives him.

"This was an accident," he said. "You've always loved our Hannah, and our Hannah loved you. Do not live in the prison of guilt. … Hannah loves you — present tense."

Tim Kelley also thanked the medical and religious communities, and the thousands of strangers around the world, many of whom staged impromptu local and prayer vigils during the week Hannah Kelley was in the hospital.

"Hannah Grace has touched more people in the last two weeks than I have in 30 years of trying," Tim Kelley said. "Thank you seems so inadequate. … We will never forget."

On Saturday, Hannah Kelley's friends and families wanted to make sure people didn't forget who the young woman was.

"We all have a piece of Hannah in our hearts. And we're never going to let it die," said Rob Norton, a church leader.

Hannah Kelley loved chocolate, dance, her family and church, those who knew her said.

She liked to dress her dogs up and take them for walks in a stroller. She gave them kisses every night, and made her parents (even her dad) do the same.

She was bubbly, and loved everyone she met. She assumed everyone loved her back.

By 5 years old, she was demanding her father bring her issues of Bride magazine whenever he came back from a trip.

She was taking classes at St. Petersburg College, her father said, although her ultimate career goal was becoming a wife and a mother.

She didn't know how to lie, Tim Kelley said. She only disobeyed her parents once — by dating a Yankees fan, her father joked.

Hannah Kelley and Bueller met a few years ago at church and hoped to marry this summer. They were saving for rings. Both wanted to enter ministry.

Bueller sat near her parents during the service.

"We love him," Tim Kelley told the crowd before addressing Bueller directly. "We lost our daughter. We don't want to lose you, too."

And although they never made it to marriage, Tim Kelley said he believes his daughter did get her wedding — on the day she died.

"It was not the wedding she was planning, but one that was planned before time began. My daughter wed the Lamb of God," he told the crowd. "I didn't want to give her up. I still don't. I don't think I ever will. But I know my daughter is full of joy, full of peace and full of life. … She had her wedding, and she's having an amazing honeymoon."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com.

Hundreds mourn pastor's daughter who was shot in head at church 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 10:10pm]
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