Church still shaken 3 months after Trelawny killing

MEMBERS of Agape Christian Fellowship Church in Falmouth, Trelawny, remain devastated, albeit at different levels, by the vicious shooting death of 51-year-old banker Andrea Lowe Garwood during the praise and worship session at their church on Sunday, January 31.

“The psychological effects of what happened lingers for all of us but in varying degrees,” pastor of Agape Christian Fellowship Church in Falmouth, Junior Rutty told the Jamaica Observer.

One of the church members among those acutely traumatised by the vicious murder of Lowe Garwood shared that she is now easily startled by loud sounds as they trigger memories of the gunshots which snuffed out the banker’s life.

“Right now if a plate drop in my kitchen me heart race like crazy. Things that never matter to me in terms of sounds, oh dear, if you talk too loud me get scared. I mean, I just can’t manage. Everything. If a door bangs is like it brings back memories. But, God has been good. We still have our minds intact and we still manage to go through our daily activities,” said the church member who did not want to be named.

Another member of the church who was among the congregation when her church sister was peppered with bullets by the shooter who posed as a worhshipper, related that she is still haunted by vivid recollections of the incident.

“It’s still unbelievable that it happened. It is going to take a while before we get over it. For me, I am having flashbacks… going back to the incident. Recently with me, the incident keeps playing back in my mind and some days I just feel sad, and that is what is happening now. I was talking to another member and she said she felt so sad,” the church member stated.

Another member reasoned that although it was not expected to disappear totally, the trauma that stemmed from the horrific murder is “not at the same level as when it just happened”.

“It has been rocky, really rocky. It is good to talk to get the emotions out every now and again at different points of the day or whatever it may be, to express our feelings about what happened,” a female member of the church shared.

The church members underscored that the active role that Lowe Garwood played in the church makes it even more difficult to overcome her demise.

“She has brought so much that in almost every sector you are being reminded of this person. If it’s going out, you think about her; if it you want an idea about something, you think about her; if it is to venture out to help somebody, you think about her because she was like in every space in terms of the type of person she was. So it is really difficult,” the Sunday Observer was told.

“I went to a funeral yesterday [Friday], and while I was at the funeral my mind was centred on what happened. Every day there is something that reminds you of this person and if she was here what would be happening..its rough. It is a difficult passage, really difficult passage.”

The mercy of God and counselling have been attributed to the church members’ ability to survive during their time of grief.

“We have been receiving counselling and being guided by the Word day by day. It is not that you will get over, it is that you get through. This death is different from all the others we experience because you have loved ones who have been sick and died; motor vehicle accident takes place and it’s sudden, but just the event that took place it is mind-boggling. Sometimes I can’t believe this. I can’t believe that it happened. Sometimes I say to myself, ‘Wonder if I am in a dream?’ It is a difficult situation. Today is actually three months and it is like it is now. It is very present. It is like no time has elapsed you just feel the pain equally like just when it happened,” a member stated.

For Pastor Rutty, virtual worship, a measure in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, has proven in some way to assist the healing process as the number of worshippers are kept away from the church building where the incident unfolded.

“COVID help the situation in a way that people who don’t want to come out will just stay home. But we are still connected with them and we have to work through the process… that’s how it is. It is a tedious process, especially for the ones who were there who saw the incident. But so far we are coming back together,” the clergyman stated.

He said that the speedy delivery of justice will also assist in bringing closure to the incident.

“If perpetrators are brought to justice it will result in a level of satisfaction in the healing process; not that it would close everything because those things become a a strong part of your memory. It is something that you live through that goes with different individuals everytime it comes up,” Pastor Rutty suggested. “I think in all cases when justice is served that suits the crime, people become very thankful in the [justice] system when it works out that way and it helps to bring closure to the situation.”

Two accused men, Dwight Bingham, who is charged with murder and illegal possession of firearm, and 29-year-old Javan “Janoy” Garwood, who is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of the banker, were recently remanded in custody when they appeared in the Trelawny Parish Court in Falmouth. Garwood is the banker’s stepson.

A third man, Leon Hines – the alleged driver of the getaway car –who pleaded guilty to two of the six counts he had been charged with, was sentenced to six years in prison for possession of illegal firearm.

Hines pleaded guilty in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston to illegal possession of firearm and accessory after the fact to murder.

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