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Candlelight vigil remembers mom, 3 kids killed in Chester

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Stephen Bradshaw, a cousin of JoAnna Cottle, speaks to the media on Monday. The bodies of JoAnna Cottle and her three children, 13-year-old Kaelyn Parson, 4-year-old Kinsey Cottle and 4-year-old Jayson Cottle were found Friday in Chester.

Family members of the woman and her three children found fatally shot in a Chester home on Friday are using their faith to get through the incredible loss just days before Thanksgiving, a relative said Monday.

“It’s tough, but we’re praying multiple times a day to give us strength. Just trust in God,” said Stephen Bradshaw, a cousin of JoAnna Cottle.

Bradshaw spoke on behalf of the family Monday during a candlelight vigil held at Salem Church Middle School, not far from the neighborhood where the family lived.

Officers were dispatched to the home in the 4200 block of Laurel Oak Road after JoAnna Cottle called police just before 5 a.m. to report an intruder, authorities said. The bodies of Cottle, 39, and her children, Kaelyn Parson, 13; Kinsey Cottle, 4; and Jayson Cottle, 4, were discovered inside by police.

Police said the investigation led to Cottle’s former boyfriend, Jonah Adams, 35, who is the father of Kinsey and Jayson Cottle. He was arrested in Maryland nine hours after the killings. A motive is unclear.

On Monday, parents, teachers, classmates and community members lit candles, said prayers and shared memories during the vigil at the school, where Kaelyn was a student.

“We love you, Kaelyn,” their voices rang.

“I know we will get through this together,” said James Holland, vice chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors.

“We’re praying for this family, and we’re praying for this community,” said Holland, who represents the district where Cottle and her children lived.

Bradshaw asked reporters to keep their distance during the event to allow attendees to grieve.

“Tonight’s candlelight vigil is for the community to be able to come together, tell stories, cry on each other’s shoulders if needed and just be able to be a community with one another,” Bradshaw said.

He recalled the three children swimming in their grandparents’ backyard pool.

“They always wanted to swim even when it was cold outside,” Bradshaw said. “To look out into the backyard and the babies that aren’t out there playing, that’s been the hardest thing.”

During the vigil, the Rev. William Gunter led a group of about 100 people in prayer and song.

“We all have questions and we can’t answer all of them, but we know that coming together tonight [was] the right thing to do,” Gunter said.

On Monday, Adams made his first court appearance in Charles County, Md., since his arrest on Friday near his home in Waldorf. He is being held on a fugitive from justice warrant.

Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington said Adams’ extradition hearing was postponed after his attorneys questioned whether Adams is competent to assist in his own defense, as it pertains to whether he should waive extradition or go through the full extradition process. A judge ordered an outpatient examination.

“So someone will have to evaluate [Adams] and come up with a recommendation,” Covington said.

A status hearing has been set for Dec. 7 in Charles County District Court.

A hearing on Adams’ extradition was rescheduled for Dec. 21. But Covington said that may not be needed if Adams is deemed competent to make a decision on his extradition.

The family’s funeral service is scheduled for noon on Nov. 29 at Destination Church in Hopewell and is open to the public. There will be three caskets, Bradshaw said: one for JoAnna, one for Kaelyn and a single casket for the twins Kinsey and Jayson.

“They came into this world together,” he said. “We’re going to let them rest together.”

LGerman@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6340

Twitter: @Lyndon_G

Staff writers Mark Bowes and Thad Green contributed to this report.

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