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A Session of Sharing at Calvary

September 30, 1996|RENEE TAWA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The letter from Joshua Turville arrived the day of his death.

His close friend, Melissa Holt, 18, was too numb to cry when she read it. She was still in shock from the news that the popular Calvary Church youth leader and two of his friends had been shot to death Sept. 24, allegedly by their troubled roommate in Bayfield, Colo.

Sunday, at a special counseling session for the church's college ministry, Holt quoted from his last letter to her, in which he wrote about the death of a co-worker in a car accident.

"Remember this," he wrote, "God is good and merciful."

Speaker after speaker talked of Turville's unwavering love of God as an example for others. Nearly 150 people attended the emotional two-hour session for prayers, gospel songs, remembrances and grief counseling by a Christian psychologist.

For Holt, the gathering was a step toward acceptance of Turville's death. How could he be dead when he had just sent her this letter and called three days earlier?

"It was a little more closure," said Holt, who choked back tears Sunday as she sang his favorite gospel songs for the crowd, the ones he had taught her. "It was more real. We got to grieve as a body [of friends]."

When they received news of the deaths, church leaders immediately decided to have the counseling session in lieu of the college ministry's weekly meeting, Pastor Tom Schoen said. All week, the church's youth members had met in small groups for prayer and support.

Killed along with Turville, 20, were his 20-year-old roommates, John Anthony Lara III, another Calvary Church member, and Steven David Bates, who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Orange. The three, who were working as youth ministers, were childhood friends and graduates of El Modena High School in Orange.

Psychologist Bill Gaultiere told Sunday's gathering to be prepared for denial, anger and depression.

"Undoubtedly you felt angry at [the gunman]," he said. "Three cold-blooded murders--senseless. . . . Maybe you felt angry at God for not protecting Josh on his mission, and John as well.

"We need to be careful with our anger. Careful with placing blame."

Michael Reid, 21, said the gathering gave him the chance to grieve.

"In the past few days, it's been hard to get my feelings out," he said. "This is the first time I let out all the tears."

The news never really quite sunk in for Kirk Jensen, 20. He got word on his second day of class at UC San Diego, a place far removed from his church group.

He grew up with Turville and Lara. He can still close his eyes and see the three playing basketball together. He can see their moves, their faces.

Now, he said, in heaven, Turville is smiling.

"His prayer was for our college group to be [as] one," he said, "and that's what happened today."

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