Funerals almost always focus on a life lived, joys shared and death.
But Wednesday’s funeral of Doug and Debbie London at their home church, a few miles from their Lake Wylie home, was not just about their lives and deaths – but how they died.
Five months before they were gunned down in their lakeside home, the Londons had been the victims of an armed robbery at the mattress store they operated in Charlotte. Their Oct. 23 shooting deaths remain unsolved.
Doug London – at 63, a kind, selfless and generous man who took in stray animals – “died with a gun in his hand, trying to protect his family,” his sister, Leslie Musgrove, told those in attendance at Bethlehem Church in Gastonia.
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“Even in the face of evil,” she said, “he was not afraid.”
York County sheriff’s spokesman Trent Faris said Wednesday he could not confirm Musgrove’s statement that her brother was armed when the couple was killed. In fact, investigators have said little publicly about the shootings, other than that they do not believe the killings were random and that the public should not be concerned with safety.
Family and friends spoke lovingly and through so many tears of the generosity of Debbie London, 61, of her devotion to family and friends. One of her brothers told the mourners that for years his sister, without fail, called him three times a week – until last week.
“I’m still waiting for that phone call,” he said through tears.
Daniel London, 27, the Londons’ only child who called 911 after finding his parents dead last week, described how they had been there for him “when I struggled.”
But he also spoke of their frustration with the court system in the wake of the May 25 armed robbery at the Wholesale Mattress Warehouse.
His parents’ “last days were filled with worry, bitterness and anger toward the justice system they put their faith in,” Daniel London said. “The people who killed my parents will pay for their crimes – in this life or the next.”
Robbery case uncertain
Police have not commented on whether the robbery of the mattress store – during which Doug London shot one of the robbers – and the shootings of the Londons last week are connected.
One of the three men charged in connection with the robbery is now free, despite admitting to participating in the aftermath of the crime. The other two remain in jail, facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy.
David Fudge, 21, pleaded guilty last month to accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 13-15 months in prison and six months of electronic monitoring. That sentence was suspended and he is now on probation. Mecklenburg County prosecutors have declined to say if Fudge’s plea deal required him to cooperate in their prosecution of his co-defendants.
Nana Adoma, 19, had been scheduled to be in a Charlotte courtroom Wednesday afternoon, but a pre-trial conference was rescheduled for Dec. 3.
Jamell Cureton, 22, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning, a spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office said.
Police have not identified which suspect was shot by London and allegedly shot at him.
It is unclear, with the Londons – both victims and witnesses to the armed robbery – now dead, how prosecutors will move forward Adoma’s and Cureton’s cases.
Dickie Spargo, pastor at Bethlehem Church, told the church filled with mourners – many of whom spoke of the grace of both Doug and Debbie London – to stay faithful and to pray that police will find their killer.
“Justice is going to roll like a river,” he said.
But a week after the deaths of the former Piedmont Airlines flight attendant who modeled the airline’s uniforms and the professional golfer and artist, justice is still pending.
Justice was mentioned repeatedly Wednesday, but justice was not at the funeral. Just remembrances of people described as not just good but great, of people who died from gunshots in the lakeside home they had built over 30 years – from a summer cabin to a dream home.
A dream that ended with a nightmare.