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Woman found dead at home of Springfield suspect once found solace among faithful, pastor says

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© New Day Church Kayla Escalante was baptized at New Day Church in Springfield in 2016.

By Jeremy Fox, The Boston Globe
SPRINGFIELD

Kayla Escalante, who was identified Monday as one of three women whose bodies were found at the Massachusetts home here of a man charged with assault, kidnapping, and attempted kidnapping, was a troubled woman who had for a time found solace among a community of the faithful, according to the Rev. Mike Sorcinelli, lead pastor at New Day Church in Springfield.

Sorcinelli first encountered Escalante on a Sunday evening in the summer of 2015, he said in an interview Tuesday at the church’s offices in West Springfield. Escalante, then 25, was looking “unkempt” and “a little rough,” he said, seeking shelter beneath a bridge near the venue where New Day holds its services.

“She was quite visibly pregnant, well along, and she had a sign up that said ‘homeless,’ ” he said. “My wife had just recently been pregnant herself, with our fourth child, and quite obviously my heartstrings were tugged on and my heart went out to her.”

Sorcinelli and his family stopped and spoke with Escalante, “told her that God loved her,” and gave her some food and some basic survival supplies that he had brought back from a mission trip overseas, he said.

“When I talked to her, she said, ‘Oh my goodness, someone else from New Day Church had just stopped by right before you did,’ and had a similar story to her, getting pregnant as a teenager, and just kind of showered some love on her and invited her to church,” he said.

A member of the congregation invited Escalante to come live with her for a time, Sorcinelli said, and soon she began attending weekly worship services. One Sunday, he said, he turned around after a service, “and there was Kay. . . . She was in a dress, she was all dolled up, and you never would have known in a million years that she lived under a bridge.”

By August 2015, Escalante had filled out a card identifying herself as a follower of Jesus, according to church records, and soon she was volunteering at the church and building a network of friends there, he said.

Later that year, she was able to move into subsidized housing for homeless expectant mothers, Sorcinelli said.

“Then, right after she moved in, a group of ladies in our church threw her a baby shower, and they just loaded her up with baby clothes, and diapers, and just everything that she would need to properly care for that child,” he said.

Sorcinelli said Escalante’s mother had attended the shower, and one of the women who organized the event told him earlier Tuesday that “it was a really special moment for her and her mother. They were just beside themselves with excitement, and things were certainly looking up for Kay, who not too long ago was under a bridge.”

After her daughter, Lyric, was born in December 2015, Escalante brought her to Sunday services with her, he said, and in February 2016, Escalante was baptized at the church, making public her commitment to her faith. Photos from that day show a smiling Escalante in a T-shirt that reads, “I have decided,” which the pastor said means, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

“Then, unfortunately, as quickly as she showed up . . . she kind of disappeared,” Sorcinelli said. “We don’t know all the reasons behind that, but we are almost positive that she began using again — using drugs. . . . A lot of the ladies in the church had really heavily invested relationally in her, and they were really kind of heartbroken that she just was off the grid.”

Sorcinelli hadn’t seen Escalante since early 2016, he said. Then, around 2 p.m. Monday, he received a text message from a parishioner telling him that she had been identified as one of the women found dead at 1333 Page Blvd.

“And then a flood of texts came in after that,” he said. “Because for the season that she was here, a bunch of people reached out to her and invested in her.”

On Tuesday morning, Sorcinelli called one of the women who had become close with Escalante during her short time at New Day Church, he said.

“She was crying,” he said, “from the moment she picked up the phone.”

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Woman found dead at home of Springfield suspect once found solace among faithful, pastor says
Woman found dead at home of Springfield suspect once found solace among faithful, pastor says
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