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‘God’s not far away’ for slain mom, kids

BY JOHNNY JOHNSON Modified: January 22, 2009 at 9:48 am •  Published: January 22, 2009
EL RENO — Standing at the podium Wednesday behind five gold-trimmed ivory caskets, the white-haired Assembly of God pastor seemed almost at a loss for words.

"I’ve been searching my heart about what to say and I’ve found some difficulty, I don’t mind saying,” the Rev. Gerald Van Horn said. "I’ve preached a lot of funerals. But none like this.”

In the caskets lay the bodies of Summer Rust, 25, and her four children, all found strangled last week in their El Reno apartment. Rust’s boyfriend, Joshua Durcho, 25, has been charged in connection with their deaths.

Stuffed animals lined the floor beneath the children’s caskets. Lavender-colored flowers, 7-year-old Autumn’s favorite, rested on top of her casket. There were pink flowers for 7-year-old Kirsten, blue and white for Teagin, 4, the only boy, and yellow flowers for Evynn, 3. And there were photos of each victim on easels.

Summer’s flowers were the same shade of purple as the domestic violence ribbons worn by dozens of mourners.

More than 400 people gathered in the gym of Redlands Community College, where Rust was a student, to say their collective goodbyes to the family that was slain Jan. 12.

Van Horn said he found it hard to believe something so horrific happened in El Reno.

But it did happen, Van Horn said, and it raised a question asked by countless others in the last week and a half.

"Where was God when all this happened?”

It was a question for which Van Horn didn’t have an easy answer, but he said he knew without a doubt that whatever the plan was before Wednesday, God is with the slain family now.

"God’s not far away,” he whispered.

"God is here. Life will not be the same, but I tell you today, God feels our pain and our hurt.”

As he spoke, smiling images of Summer and her children were projected on a screen above him. has disabled the comments for this article.

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