Police in Cedar Hill, Texas, have launched a criminal investigation after a prominent local pastor, Eugene Keahey, was found dead along with his wife and their 15-year-old daughter in their family home where a fire broke out.
Two people, including another of the couple’s daughters, were rescued by police from a second-story window last Thursday shortly after they arrived at the home at about 4:30 a.m., The Dallas Morning News reported.
Keahey, a father of four, shared the home with his wife, Deanna, two daughters and extended family. An older son and daughter were not believed to be in the home at the time, NBC Washington reported.
Members of Keahey’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Sandbranch who gathered for service on Sunday said they were heartbroken by his passing.
"Part of me has been dreading this all week," Mount Zion Baptist Church Music Director Maurice Hale told NBCDFW. "It's taken a lot of courage to come out for this, but this is what pastor would have wanted us to do… We're heartbroken, but we just have to press on.”
Jessica Garcia, who only attended Mount Zion Baptist Church for about two weeks, said she decided to show up to pay her respects to the pastor because “he was a very welcoming guy. He was very sweet."
Church member Ivory Hall told CBSDFW that he was struggling to cope with the pastor’s death because he had known him for years. Keahey, he said, regularly visited him and helped the community.
“Whenever we needed him, he was here. He’d come around and sit around the patio with us here. He was that kind of a guy,” Hall said.
A day or two before the house fire, he recalled how the pastor had worked to make sure he had enough water.
“He brought some water around here. He said ‘you told me you need some gallon jugs. I got you some.’ He unloaded them himself…,” said Hall.
In 2016, Keahey had lobbied to get safe drinking water to the impoverished Sandbranch community and Hall explained that he really wants to know “exactly what happened” to such a caring minister.
“He’d walk the streets with people showing them about the community,” said Hall. “I just hope they find out exactly what happened. That is what I am waiting on.”
Cedar Hill police Sgt. Chad Cooley told NBCDFW on Friday that investigators do not suspect an intruder in the case but were reviewing Facebook posts made by the pastor himself.
About three weeks ago, Keahey changed his cover photo to a picture with the words, "We all have secrets."
Shortly before the fire was reported, at 3:57 a.m. Thursday, the pastor also posted a cryptic message online referring to "this difficult time in my life" and ended with the phrase, "Good Night Y'all."
It was also reported that Keahey and his wife, who once taught elementary school, were going through financial difficulties prior to their deaths. The home in which they were found dead was sold at a foreclosure auction last month.