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Five slain family members laid to rest

A balloon outside of a home in Riviera Beach where a man killed his wife, four step-children, and himself, reads, "We Miss You Javon Nelson, We Love You. Nelson Family Love U."
A balloon outside of a home in Riviera Beach where a man killed his wife, four step-children, and himself, reads, "We Miss You Javon Nelson, We Love You. Nelson Family Love U." PALM BEACH POST

Inexplicable loss. Unshakable hope.

This was the message behind every word of comfort, every psalm recited, each song of solace raised over the five white caskets adorned with flowers and photographs below the altar of Palm Beach Gardens' Christ Fellowship Church Saturday morning.

One by one, family members, teachers and friends of Natasha Whyte-Dell and four of her children expressed, through tears and words, how shocking and tragic it was that they should be in those caskets and not sitting among them.

But each song and psalm also spoke of the belief that the family, killed Sept. 27 in their Riviera Beach home by Whyte-Dell's estranged husband, is at peace in a far better place.

"You might be trying to figure out why some of us are so enthused," said Minister Darrin McCray, who officiated the service. "...Our hope goes beyond the grave."

Before the morning funeral, a line extended halfway around Christ Fellowship's large sanctuary, comprised of mourners waiting to get one last glimpse of Whyte-Dell, 36, Bryan Barnett, 14, Diane Barnett, 13, Daniel Barnett, 10, and Javon Nelson, 11.

The family died at the hands of 41-year-old Patrick Dell, who also shot and wounded another of his wife's seven children, 14-year-old Ryan Barnett. Dell, who later shot and killed himself, left his two children with Whyte-Dell unharmed.

Dell was mentioned in his wife's obituary in the funeral program as "the husband (Whyte-Dell) thought she had waited for all her life (until) her happiness was short lived."

Speakers, including Riveria Beach's mayor, Bishop Thomas Masters, focused on tributes to the fallen and comfort for the living, including Ryan Barnett.

They described how Natasha, called Nadine by her family, had a helpful spirit; how Bryan dreamed of playing professional basketball and enjoyed making corn dogs for his siblings; how Diane, the only girl among brothers, was both tough and nurturing; how Daniel, or Danny, enjoyed putting away large breakfasts at IHop; and how Javon "had the most magnificant saucer eyes you ever saw," according to teacher Gentene Davis of Bethune Cookman Elementary.

"You always wanted to be with your mom," she said, "and now you will forever."

Many made allusions to the book of Job, who, like Whyte-Dell's family, lost so many children at once but survives. "Job, like you, was a man of God," Masters said, directing his comments at Javon's father, Rev. Leroy Nelson.

"When we're weak, (God) steps in on our left side," counseled speaker Pastor James Bentley of Bibleway Missionary Baptist Church, reminding those assembled that even though "we're standing behind five coffins (after) a catastrophe of monumental proportions, (God) shows up in the midst."

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