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Pastor: Hillsboro 'shaken' after murder-suicide ends inside local church

Posted: 6:01 AM, Dec 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-18 12:24:28-05
Pastor Tom Zile Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene
hillsboro nazarene church.jfif

HILLSBORO, Ohio — Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the victim's last name. WCPO regrets this error.

The pastor of a church where a man took his own life after killing a woman and taking a child said the close-knit community of Hillsboro is shaken.

“It rocks a community,” said Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene Tom Zile. “It really does. It just shakes the foundation of who we are and what we claim to be.”

The Highland County Sheriff said 37-year-old Josh McLaughlin of Hillsboro shot and killed 33-year-old Sherry Walls in her home Friday evening.

Deputies said McLaughlin also took a child from Walls' home before fleeing and barricading himself into Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene at 8230 U.S. 50.

Officers found the child outside, and deputies were able to grab the child out of harm's way.

After an hours-long standoff, authorities confirmed the suspect had killed himself early Saturday morning.

Zile said it’s hard to believe what happened inside his church and just a few feet down the road.

“When something like this happens, there’s no human explanation,” Zile said. “And so we have to turn to our faith and trust in God.”

The church is canceling all weekend events, including a live Nativity and Sunday services, while it starts to get cleaned up.

Zile said the community is rallying around the church and the families affected by the tragedy, opening their doors to take their congregation in for Sunday morning services.

“Our purpose is to show the families that have lost loved ones that we love them and that we’re going to support them and care for them in whatever way we can,” Zile said.

Authorities said the relationship between McLaughlin, Walls and the child remains unclear. Zile said they were not members of the congregation of the Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene.

Police executed a search warrant at the Hillsboro home as they continue to investigate.

Zile said the church plans to hold a prayer vigil later next week.