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4:05 AM Thu, Dec. 13th

Vigil held for Monday’s slaying victims

Susanna Castandea was one of hundreds of Lake Havasu City residents to attend a candlelight memorial ceremony Wednesday at London Brige Beach. The ceremony was organized to celebrate lives of suspected homicide victims Jamie Gottier and Hannah Gottier. (Photo by Brandon Messick/Today’s News-Herald)

Susanna Castandea was one of hundreds of Lake Havasu City residents to attend a candlelight memorial ceremony Wednesday at London Brige Beach. The ceremony was organized to celebrate lives of suspected homicide victims Jamie Gottier and Hannah Gottier. (Photo by Brandon Messick/Today’s News-Herald)

LAKE HAVASU CITY – Hundreds gathered at London Bridge Beach Wednesday evening to mourn two Lake Havasu City residents who died in an apparent murder-suicide this week.

As a community wonders why such a tragedy unfolded, many came together for mutual support at a candlelight memorial ceremony. Christina Musselman, one of the event’s organizers, was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who came to show their respects.

“I started talking about this with friends, and it blasted off on Facebook,” Musselman said. “It gives a little closure in this tragic time. There was an overwhelming response. This has left us all in a state where people are questioning a lot of things … but it’s brought us all together as a community to support each other.”

Lake Havasu City Police detectives are still attempting to determine a motive in the killings of Jamie Gottier and her daughter, 14-year-old Hannah Gottier. Police say the suspected killer, Tobin D. Gottier shot his wife and daughter as they arrived at their home in the 600 block of Beachcomber Boulevard Monday afternoon, and then entered a truck in the home’s carport before fatally shooting himself.

Friends of Hannah’s wore teal ribbons and carried teal Chinese lanterns in Hannah’s honor – according to friends of the victim, it was her favorite color. Pastors Art Navarro, of Abundant Grace Church, and Robert Smith, of Calvary Baptist Church, were invited to speak at the ceremony.

“There’s no way to prepare for this,” Smith said. “It’s easier when you see violence in other countries or other cities, but it’s different when it happens in your town, to your classmate, to a member of your youth group. You wonder why this has happened? Where is the hope … God is grieving with you. This was not part of his plan. … your reactions might be of grief or anger. That reaction is normal, but there is hope.”

Navarro knew the victims, who attended services at Abundant Grace.

“It’s a difficult thing to have to walk through,” Navarro told hundreds of assembled guests, friends and family of the victims. “You don’t have to walk through it alone.”

Havasu resident Allen Grogan’s daughter was for about five years a member of Hannah Gottier’s cheerleading team. His wife, Leanne Grogan, was among the ceremony’s organizers.

“We’re here to honor her,” Grogan said at the event. “It’s very disappointing when something like this happens, but the community has been very supportive of the family … it’s something that’s indicative of a small community. I’m not at all surprised to see the number of people here.”

Girl Scout Troop Leader Tammy Bohnker knew Hannah through the Girl Scouts organization. “It was devastating,” Bohnker said. “We don’t understand why this happened. We’ve talked with our kids about domestic violence, but nothing like this. It’s kind of opened our eyes … this kind of thing is a reality.”

The week has been a somber one for students at Lake Havasu High School, where Hannah was a freshman. News of Hannah’s death was sent to Havasu parents and school administrators Monday evening.

“We give what information we can when something like this happens so parents can have those conversations with their students,” Becker said. “Yesterday, it was very quiet. There were a lot of upset students, and we let them know counseling was available if students needed it. Youth pastors and grief counselors also offered their help in assisting students. It set the mood for (Wednesday) … This is something we’re all dealing with, and we’re all in this together.”

Year-to-date, there have been almost 60 deaths in Arizona as the result of domestic violence, according to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence. Lake Havasu City residents who suspect domestic violence or potential violence can contact the Lake Havasu City Police Department at 928-855-1171, or can make a report anonymously by calling Havasu Silent Witness at 928-854-8477.