'We are here to support you': Prayer vigil follows deadly shootings in Smyrna-Clayton area

Ben Mace
Delaware News Journal

After deadly shootings in Smyrna and Clayton this week, church leaders from both communities organized a prayer vigil Thursday to call for peace.

About 125 people gathered at George Wright Jr. Municipal Park in Smyrna on the cloudy, breezy evening for the candlelight service that included messages from pastors, prayers, the singing of “Amazing Grace,” the reading of the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.

Denzell Dalton, the husband of 21-year-old Smyrna shooting victim Deanna "Dee" Dominick-Dalton, attended the service. Deanna was friends with Stephanie Gill. They were both shot by Stephanie’s husband, Llewellyn “Lew” Gill, who then shot himself before crashing his car near Galena, Maryland, police said.

Denzell Dalton (second from left), the husband of murder victim Deanna "Dee" Dominick-Dalton, is comforted during a candlelight vigil at Smyrna's George Wright Jr. Municipal Park held in response to a violent week in the Smyrna area and elsewhere, Thursday, April 29, 2021.

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Father Paul Mast told Dalton, “You’re the one carrying the heaviest cross tonight because of the loss of your spouse, but I see over 100 people who want to help you carry that cross and be a caregiver to you.”

Stephanie Gill, left, and Deanna "Dee" Dominick-Dalton, were killed Tuesday morning by Gill's husband, Llewelyn Gill.

After the service, when asked if he wanted to say anything to the community, Dalton replied, “Not at this time.”

His family also declined to comment.

Dozens of people, including Tammy Scheers, offered condolences to Dalton at the vigil.

“I feel for the family,” Scheers said. “It’s so sad. The world’s gone crazy. It has to stop.”

Before Tuesday’s deadly shooting in Smyrna, a similar tragedy happened Sunday west of Clayton. Police said Raymond C. Bell, 45, apparently shot his girlfriend, Heather L. Truitt, 39, and Russell N. Bell, 48, before shooting himself.

UPDATE:3 dead in murder-suicide near Clayton on Sunday

Father Paul Mast of St. Polycarp Church (left) and other attendees listen to a speaker during a vigil at Smyrna's George Wright Jr. Municipal Park in the wake of violence in the Smyrna area and elsewhere, Thursday, April 29, 2021.

During the prayer vigil, pastors offered consolation but also expressed how difficult it is to know what to say.

“Sometimes as a minister, believe it or not, we’re at a loss for words,” said the Rev. David Souder of Smyrna Wesleyan Church. “In times like this, you could either curse the darkness or you could light a candle. We as a community need to light a candle – a candle of peace.”

The Rev. Nina Johnson-Wright of Centennial United Methodist Church in Smyrna said people in the community are saddened and confused.

“Words cannot even express what’s on our hearts, but we can look to the Lord,” she said. “At this time, we’re hurting as a community and struggling to make sense of this.”

Sherry Steller sits with her twin boys Bentley (left) and Ryan, 4, while attending a vigil at Smyrna's George Wright Jr. Municipal Park in the wake of violence in the Smyrna area and elsewhere, Thursday, April 29, 2021.

In her prayer, she asked God to comfort the families and friends who lost loved ones.

“We need to unite as one. We need to come together as one. We pray for the Smyrna-Clayton community, but we also pray for this nation for all the senseless killings that have taken place,” Johnson-Wright said.

Smyrna Mayor Robert Johnson offered condolences to the family and friends of the victims.

“You have suffered a great loss, but you have gained a village,” Johnson said. “We are here to support you with whatever you need.”

Reach reporter Ben Mace at rmace@gannett.com.