Family of slain woman, children trying to carry on, spokesman says
More than a week after the bodies of Renee Morris and her three children were found in Tillamook State Forest, relatives of the North Portland family remained 'basically in a holding pattern,' according to family spokesman Tom Stubblefield.
'They're just trying to get through the week, and through the day,' he said.
Elk hunters found the bodies of the pregnant Morris and her two sons and daughter Dec. 21. Morris' husband, Edward, has been charged with four counts of murder and remained at large Monday afternoon.
Stubblefield said the family was especially grateful to community members for their support. Hundreds of friends and family members gathered Saturday at St. Johns Christian Church in North Portland to remember Renee Morris and her children.
'The pain that her children and she experienced are no longer theirs Ñ they're ours,' said Phil Hawk, pastor of St. Johns Wesleyan Church, where the Morris family attended services.
While survivors can be distracted by such a tragedy, Hawk said, 'I'm telling you Ñ God is bigger.'
Edward Morris' father and other family members attended Saturday's service with Renee Morris' family.
'We have to understand that these are both longtime North Portland families,' Stubblefield, an elder at St. Johns Christian Church, said of the families after the service. 'And they're getting along very well. They're supporting each other.'
The 90-minute service included comments from Renee Morris' mother, Pat Elmore, who talked about her daughter's life and those of her three grandchildren: 10-year-old Bryant, 'a hugger'; 8-year-old Alexis, who 'sang like an angel'; and 4-year-old Johnathan, 'who was looking forward to playing soccer next year É he already had his shoes.'
'We are all going together'
Elmore also talked about another Morris child who died years ago after living only two days.
'It was a very difficult time,' said Elmore, who remembered her daughter saying of her children after the infant's death: 'If one of them has to go, we are all going together.'
The service also included a slide show of photographs showing Renee and the three children.
'Our family and close friends want to share these memories with you so you will know Renee and her children for who they were, what they lived for, and not how they died,' Elmore said.
Stubblefield said the family did not yet want to talk to reporters. 'We have to realize what that family's going through right now,' he said in the foyer of the church after the service, as the families congregated for a meal in the church basement.
'It's a very tough, trying, emotional time, and it's going to be in the upcoming days. And when the time is right, the family will speak.'
Edward Morris was not included in any of the photographs presented during the service, and he was mentioned only once during the service Ñ when Elmore talked about how much Bryant looked like his father.
'I think both families just wanted to celebrate the lives of Renee and the children, and I think they did it in a real positive manner,' Stubblefield said.
'They're a very loving family. They have a very deep faith, and I think they're counting on that to get them through.'
Report from The Dalles
The search for Morris veered from Seattle and Canada to The Dalles on Sunday. A motel clerk there told authorities a man driving what appeared to be the Morris family's gray minivan had rented a room on the night of Dec. 20 Ñ the same day that police think Morris killed his family. The motel clerk said the van had the Oregon license plate WSH-171, the same as the Morris family van.
On Monday morning, Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson said 'investigators have verified the sighting in The Dalles and are canvassing the area.'
The hunt for Edward Morris also was featured Saturday night on the Fox TV show 'America's Most Wanted.' The FBI also placed information about Morris on its Web site to help generate tips.
Law enforcement officials described Morris as armed and dangerous. Morris' father said FBI agents mentioned they were looking for a missing gun.
Officials ask that citizens continue to be on the lookout for the family's 1993 Dodge Caravan, which has bumper stickers in the rear window reading 'Promise Keepers' and 'Luis Palau.'
Anyone with information can call the FBI tip line at 503-815-3340.