In a whisper tinged with urgency, 81-year-old Nina Reynolds asked a special favor of her pastor at the conclusion of a church service in Pomona the Sunday before last.
"She asked me to pray for her sister, who was going into the hospital for surgery," recalled Pastor Ray Watts of the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, "and to pray for her own health (she walked with the aid of a cane), so she could continue taking care of her sister."
The following Sunday, a day before her 78-year-old sister's leg was to be amputated in surgery related to an advanced case of diabetes, relatives found Reynolds and her brother, Henry Williams, 88, bludgeoned to death in their bedrooms in the modest stucco home they shared.
"They think she was reading the Bible when it happened," Watts said, "because they found a Bible beside her body."
On Thursday, a Los Angeles County coroner's autopsy determined that Reynolds died of "multiple injuries due to blunt force," spokesman Robert Dambacher said. Williams' body was to be autopsied today.
Pomona police still have no motive or suspects in what appears to have been a burglary-homicide that has stunned friends and relatives of the victims--both devout Christians, who literally lived for each other and their 450-member congregation.
"I'm shocked. She was very sweet, very God-fearing," said church member Lena Smith. "Henry was a spry, friendly man, given to telling jokes."
Evidence collected in the home on West 11th Street, including fingerprints, suggests that someone forced their way into the home through a bathroom window between 7 p.m. Saturday and early Sunday morning, Police Sgt. Elias Valdez said.
"There did not appear to be a violent struggle at the location, because there wasn't a great deal of furniture strewn about," Valdez said.
Nor were any large items taken from the residence, he said.
However, the sergeant added, "they (Reynolds and Williams) kept small amounts of money in the house."
"But where they kept it and how much they had, we don't know yet," he said.
Reynolds' closest relatives declined to talk about the case. But church leaders said Reynolds moved to Pomona from Texas in 1962 with her late husband, Fred, in order to be closer to their 40 grandchildren. About five years ago, Reynolds' sister and brother moved into the residence, which is surrounded with fruit trees, flower beds and grapevines.
At home, they spent most days watching Christian TV, reading the Scriptures or hosting prayer meetings, church leaders said.
At church, Reynolds held a special chair reserved for respected elders frequently called upon to "give counsel" to young families.
"It's very hard to understand. Things like this happen for reasons beyond us," said Ruth Allen, a close friend of Reynolds for many years. "But one blessed thing we know beyond a shadow of doubt is that she went to live with the Lord."
"We're just looking for spiritual guidance and a lifting of saddened hearts knowing they do not have to live in a world like this anymore," added church member Mary Hodge. "It's a tragedy."
Because their own church is being refurbished, funeral services for the victims will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ in Pomona.