BETHALTO, Ill. — On a chilly Friday night, they gathered in a huge circle, held lots of candles and hugged each other as tears streamed down their faces.
Family members, friends and neighbors held a candlelight vigil outside the Bethalto home where last Thursday 59-year-old Shari Yates, her 32-year-old son Andrew "A.J." Brooks and their 30-year-old friend, John McMillian were all found dead.
Police said each was shot to death during a violent, multi-state crime spree allegedly committed by Brady Witcher and Brittany McMillan.
Andrew "A.J" Brooks lived in the home with his mom.
"I loved John dearly," said Ann Davis, John McMillian's aunt. "John was so much fun. He was an awesome guy, full of so much life."
The suspects are charged with the triple homicide in Illinois as well as other crimes in Alabama and Tennessee.
Crimes that have devastated everyone who knew the three victims
"A.J. was like a brother to me and Shari was like my second mom," said family friend Stephanie Young. "I loved them both so dearly. This horrible tragedy has brought our family and friends closer,"
Before Friday's vigil ended, more mourners arrived and held their candles tightly, while others lit three huge, bright balloons for the three people they'll never forget.
"I just don't understand why anyone would do this to another person. We must celebrate John's life. Not his death," Davis said.
"Our hearts just goes out to John's family and loved ones too. We all are hurting. We all are grieving," said Stephanie Young.
Funeral services for John McMillian will be on Saturday.
Services for Shari Yates and her son will take place on Sunday.
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