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Shooting Victim’s Family Had Concerns

Wendy Weddle Riley, 23, held her young daughter in her arms and asked someone to take a picture “for Abagail.” It was a special occasion for 3-year-old Abby and her mother.

The family had gathered at Wendy’s grandparents’ — Richard and Carolyn Thomas’s — home in Floyd. They had chosen that location because they believed it would be safer for Wendy, who had just left her husband, David, 29.

Family members had been concerned about Wendy for some time.

“This is all about abuse, control….We suspected something, but we weren’t sure,” said Carolyn Thomas.

The warning signs were there, she added, but the family could never get Wendy alone, away from her husband, to question her.

Shortly before the birthday party, the family found out that Wendy’s husband had beaten her badly. Wendy had decided to leave him. She went to work and called her mother in Floyd to come and get her. She filed a restraining order.

She celebrated Abby’s birthday with family in Floyd and then decided to go back to Scottsburg for a pool party that had been planned for her daughter. “She wanted all of David’s family and friends down there to be a part of the birthday,” explained Carolyn, noting that arrangements were made with David’s family to keep Wendy safe. “She spent the (Friday) night down there so Abby could be with her grandparents.”

On June 13, Wendy and her cousin were going to get gas at the convenience store. She planned to meet David’s mother to pick up Abby before coming back to Floyd County. Thinking it would be less recognizable by her husband, Wendy had chosen to drive her mother’s truck, Carolyn said, but David, driving down the road, spotted her in the vehicle and chased her with his car.

She pulled over in the store’s parking lot, and he followed.

As she was bent over getting something from the truck, he came up and shot her with a shotgun, and then turned the gun on himself.

The family said they wanted Wendy’s story to be told to help others who might be in danger from abuse. “It’s not taught in school,” Carolyn said. “When the man first hits you and tries to control you, you need to get out of it. You don’t let it escalate.

“Men and boys need to realize women are not to be beat on.”

Wendy “was a wonderful mom….She was a sweet, loving, kind little girl, and she didn’t need to die this way,” Carolyn said.

While Wendy’s family is mourning their loss, they realize another family is hurting, too, Carolyn said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Wendy was very family-oriented, Carolyn added. “She wanted her family to work so bad. She wanted him to be a part of Abby’s life. She tried so hard to work everything out.”

“She loved her daughter more than anything,” said Heather Higgs, one of Wendy’s friends, of Indian Valley. “Her daughter is the spitting image of her. That’s the only piece of Wendy we have left.”

Heather had known Wendy her entire life; their fathers are best friends. “The past four or five years we’ve gotten close,” Heather commented. “We had our babies about the same time. I was in her wedding.”

Wendy had a “bubbly personality,” she continued. “She was a great friend and a good listener. She was always there for you.”

Much of Wendy’s time was spent working, Heather said. “She worked 12-hour shifts at Presto (in South Boston) and would come home and work in her cleaning business. She was always working.”

She had also been involved in nursing studies. On Friday, the day before she was killed, she found out she had just been accepted into the nursing program at New River Community College. Carolyn said Wendy was a straight A student in school, and she wanted to become a Registered Nurse. Wendy had applied at NRCC, which offered the anatomy course she needed.

“She was quiet and so smart,” said her aunt Judy Weddle. “Everybody loved her….She fit in everywhere.”

Wendy loved the music of Alison Krauss, so Judy and her husband, Lester, provided that music for the funeral service. Richard Thomas and Dwayne Troutt (her godfather) officiated at the service.

Bradley Thomas, Judy’s brother, has set up an account on Paypal called Abby’s Fund. Donations will be given to Abby, who is being raised by her maternal grandmother, Kay Huff. The account may be accessed at: http://ftp.pwp.att.net/a/b/abbyfund/

“The outpouring of love has just been incredible,” Judy said. Several of the family members have Facebook pages, and “they have been full,” she added.
Wendy also had a Facebook page, and a quote she placed on there on June 8th read: “No matter how long the night, the dawn will break.”

Carolyn said Wendy also told her cousin on the night of her death if something happened to her to tell her mom and dad that she loved them and to take care of Abby.

“She did not do anything to deserve this,” Carolyn said. “She was trying so hard to be a wife and mom and get a degree and help people.”

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story written by Wanda Combs is reprinted with permission from The Floyd Press.)