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In Springfield, Mass., parishioners grapple with an unspeakable horror

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© John Tlumacki/Globe Staff Investigators found three bodies at a home on Page Boulevard in Springfield.

By Jerome Campbell and Jeremy C. Fox, The Boston Globe
SPRINGFIELD

On Page Boulevard, in Massachusetts, about a mile from a home where investigators discovered three dead bodies last week, nearly 75 congregants at Mary, Mother of Hope Church bowed their heads Sunday in memory of those whose remains were found.

The Rev. Matthew Alcombright, 36, led the prayer for the dead, asking for those responsible to understand the impact of their actions.

“We pray for those who seek to do violence, that the Lord soften their hearts and turn them away from terrible acts against others,” he said during service.

The bodies were found at the home of 40-year-old Stewart R. Weldon Jr., who was arrested last Sunday on kidnapping and assault charges after Springfield police stopped him for a broken taillight and found a woman in the car with severe injuries. The woman told police Weldon had held her captive for a month, repeatedly beating her with a hammer and raping her.

Investigators began searching Weldon’s home at 1333 Page Blvd., on Wednesday, and by Thursday they had located three bodies there. The search continued into a fifth day on Sunday.

Authorities have not said why they did not begin their search last Sunday following Weldon’s arrest and have declined to say specifically where the bodies were found, how long the people had been dead, or give their gender. The causes of their deaths have not been determined.

Weldon is being held on $1 million bail. He hasn’t been charged with any crimes related to the three bodies found at the house, though Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni said Friday that authorities weren’t aware of any “accomplices” in those deaths.

The woman who was allegedly held captive by Weldon is “recovering” at a hospital and “not in any life-threatening condition,” Gulluni said.

In the days since police began searching the Page Boulevard property, parishioners at Mary, Mother of Hope have expressed disbelief about the findings of the investigation in their neighborhood, Alcombright said.

“They never thought something like this would happen around them,” Alcombright said. “There’s a lot of confusion about what to do in these situations, so they seek God.”

Alcombright said he first heard about the bodies at Weldon’s home through news alerts. On Thursday, he drove past the house and was overwhelmed by the large police presence, he said.

“It was a sad moment. You see people slow down to look but you also want to look away. There’s too much emotion involved with what’s happened at that house,” said Alcombright.

Parishoner Peggy Cuomo, 68, who lives in Chicopee, said the crime scene has been unsettling to see when she drives by and hopes police will leave soon.

“I don’t think about it until I see those flashing blue lights ,” said Cuomo. “It’s just horrible.”

At nearby Cottage Hill Church, Pastor Jeff Chandler said his sermon didn’t include remarks about the investigation at Weldon’s house, which was less than a mile away.

“We had our small groups talk about it amongst themselves, because many of them would see each other before Sunday,” said Chandler. “Plus it’s easier to have those tough conversations in safe spaces, and people already trust each other.”

Chandler said one of his parishioners was a police officer who was among those who went to the house on Wednesday and he leaned on his small group to help him process what happened. His family didn’t come to church Sunday, he said.

“It must be hard to deal with, because everybody knows about it,” Chandler said, “and you know so much more, but you can’t say much.”

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: In Springfield, Mass., parishioners grapple with an unspeakable horror
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