An elderly couple who were gunned down at a veteran’s cemetery in Delaware last week had been visiting their son’s grave at the time, their heartbroken children have revealed.
Paul, 86, and Lidia Marino, 85, from Elkton, Maryland, have been identified as the victims of a fatal shooting at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear last Friday morning.
Lidia was pronounced dead at the scene while her husband, who was shot in the back of the head, was taken to the Christiana Hospital where he died later that day.
Police later discovered the 29-year-old suspect, Sheldon C. Francis, dead from a gunshot wound about six hours later in a wooded area.
Paul, 86, and Lidia Marino, 85, (far right) from Elkton, Maryland, have been identified as the victims of last week’s shooting. Their sons, twins Ray and Paul Jr, (center) said their parents were visiting their brother’s grave at the time
The elderly couple were at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear, pictured, last week when they were fatally shot in a ‘random act of violence’
It is unknown whether Francis knew his victims, and investigators are yet to release a motive.
The slain couple’s surviving children, twins Ray and Paul Jr, 60, are now struggling to come to terms with their parents’ senseless murders, which have been called a ‘random act of violence,’ according to the Newark Post.
Sheldon C. Francis, 29, from Middletown, pictured, was identified as the gunman last week. He was found dead from a gunshot wound a few hours later in a wooded area
The two revealed their mother and father were at the cemetery that morning as part of their daily ‘ritual’ of visiting their brother Anthony’s grave.
Anthony, the couple’s youngest son, was born with cerebral palsy and died from complications in March 2017 at the age of 54.
Although Anthony did not serve in the military, cemetery rules allowed his father, a peacetime army veteran in the 1950s, to bury one minor child or child with disabilities at the site.
The parents had been visiting the burial plot every day ever since.
‘It was like a regimen. Mom and Dad visited my brother’s grave every single day, without fail, unless there was inclement weather. They usually went there in the morning,’ Ray the Newark Post on Wednesday.
‘I’ve been trying to figure all this out in my head, but there are some things we are just never going to know,’ he added.
When news of the shooting broke last week, Ray’s brother Paul Jr, a maintenance manager, was at work at the time.
His parents’ were such well-known visitors of the cemetery, coworkers immediately reached out, prompting Paul to immediately call his parents but he did not get a response.
‘I went into my office and started watching all of the news about it,’ he said. ‘I could see my dad’s station wagon parked at the cemetery. Then I knew.’
Delaware State Police told the family the gunman had shot the couple with a handgun at a close range.
Vehicles are seen stopped at a roadblock, last Friday, in Bear, Del. Delaware State Police were responding Friday to a report of shots being fired at Delaware’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery, according to a police statement
aw enforcement set up a perimeter and search vehicles at an active shooter situation near the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear on Friday
‘He shot our dad in the back of the head and then he shot our mom,’ Ray said.
‘We don’t know if he shot our mom first in front of our dad or if he shot our dad first in front of our mom. We don’t even know if they saw him.’
The elderly couple were well into their 80s at the time of their deaths, but their sons said Lidia, a former homemaker and seamstress, and Paul Sr, were very healthy and active and had a least ‘five or 10 more years’ left.
‘I thought they would die from natural causes someday – not be executed by a stranger in a cemetery,’ he said.
After a shootout with officers, Francis reportedly fled into nearby woods, Senior Corporal Heather Pepper, a state police spokeswoman, said last week.
Witnesses said he was wearing a black hoodie and was seen running across the grass.
Authorities had used a reverse 911 system to warn area residents that there was an active shooter and that they should shelter in place.
Some of the residents were evacuated as officers hunted for the suspect.
Police later released a statement saying: ‘Francis was located deceased at approximately 4:00 p.m., on the date of the incident, in a wooded area located just off of Brennan Blvd., in the development of Brennan Estates, which is adjacent to the grounds of the cemetery.
‘This wooded area was where an exchange of gunfire between Francis and officers on scene had taken place at approximately 12:08 p.m. Upon being located Francis was confirmed to have sustained a gunshot wound.
‘It is undetermined at this time if the wound was self-inflicted or as a result of the exchange of gunfire.’
No officers were injured in the shooting.
The state-owned cemetery is overseen by the Office of Veterans Services, a division of the Delaware Department of State.