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Young woman who was shot in head at Lealman church dies

ST. PETERSBURG — Hannah Kelley always saved a hug for her dad after he finished preaching the Sunday morning message at Grace Connection Church.

He always made sure to kiss the top of her head. Father and daughter went through the ritual last Sunday, just like they always did.

"She said he did a good job, and that she was going to go talk to some friends in the next room," said attorney David Gibbs, a family friend. "He didn't realize that would be the last time."

Minutes later, in what authorities described as a freak accident, she was shot in the head.

The bullet pierced the young woman's brain, knocking her unconscious. She never woke up. She was pronounced dead about 10:20 a.m. Saturday at Bayfront Medical Center, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

Hannah Kelley was 20.

"She was just a delightful person," said Gibbs, the family's spokesman. "Everybody loved Hannah and she loved everybody."

Kelley was the daughter of Tim and Peggy Kelley, who founded the church at 4017 56th Ave. N in Lealman.

Authorities said the shooting occurred just after last Sunday's services.

They said Hannah Kelley's fiance, Dustin Bueller, was in a church closet with friend John Penu as Moises Zambrana, 48, showed them his Ruger 9mm. Bueller, who turns 21 this month, had expressed interest in buying a weapon for his birthday, according to sheriff's officials.

Zambrana had 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, where it hit Kelley in the head.

More than 150 people came together for a service Wednesday to pray for her. Hundreds of others posted messages on Facebook.

Authorities have not charged anyone in connection with the shooting, which they said was an accident.

"The family has forgiven Mr. Zambrana and would ask that others treat him with love and grace," the family said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. "The family would encourage mothers and fathers everywhere to hug their children a little tighter as you never know when it will be your last opportunity."

Kelley was the middle child in the family. She was her parents' only biological child together, Gibbs said, and had an older stepbrother and a younger adopted sister.

She worked at a jewelry store and was taking classes at St. Petersburg College.

"She was a social butterfly," said Gibbs, who knew Kelley all her life. "She was very bubbly, loved people."

Bueller and Kelley had dated for a few years, Gibbs said.

The couple were saving up money for rings. They hadn't set a wedding date.

"His goal was to be a pastor," Gibbs said. "One day, they wanted to join her parents (as church leaders)."

Regular church services will go on as scheduled this morning, Gibbs said, but Kelley's parents are not likely to attend.

Gibbs said arrangements are being finalized for a memorial service Saturday at Calvary Chapel. It will be open to the public, he said. A time has not yet been set.

"(Her family) wants to think about the good that has come out of this," Gibbs said. "Through this tragedy, Hannah was able to touch the world."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321.

Young woman who was shot in head at Lealman church dies 02/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 18, 2012 10:19pm]
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