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800 mourners overflow church

January 10, 1997

By ELLEN LYON

Staff Writer

MYERSVILLE, Md. - Despite the violent and untimely nature of her death, Linda Delauter died content, the Rev. Ronald A. Beverlin told an overflow crowd at her funeral Friday.

"She touched all of our lives with contentment, reminding us that with God and with walking and laughing there one finds contentment. My friends, Linda died contented and she would want us as a community to say it's over now and go back to being the community of contentment that she tried to create," Beverlin preached to an estimated crowd of 800 people.

First the mourners packed the 300-seat sanctuary of the Grossnickle Church of the Brethren and then they filled up Sunday school classrooms, a hallway, the church lobby and even the coat closet for the hour-long service.

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They came to grieve for the 53-year-old wife, mother, grandmother, deacon, Sunday school teacher, Vacation Bible School director and Frederick County Public Schools bus driver.

Delauter, of the 12000 block of Wolfsville Road, was fatally wounded late Monday when she answered a knock on her door and was shot in the upper chest, Maryland State Police said.

Ralph Manna, 58, of Loy Wolf Road in Frederick County, a fellow church member and the husband of a friend of Delauter's, is charged in Frederick County with first-degree murder, attempted murder, first-degree assault and two counts of use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.

He also is charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault and burglary in Franklin County, Pa.

Delauter's house was the last stop on a shooting rampage that caused terror at three homes in two states. Police contend that Manna was searching for his wife, Barbara, who had left him last summer and filed for divorce in September.

The rampage began about 10:45 p.m. at the home of Richard Sanchez, 48, of 10984 Gehr Road in Washington Township, Pa. According to police, Ralph Manna was romantically involved with Sanchez' wife, Candace.

Richard Sanchez was listed in serious condition Friday in Washington County Hospital, the victim of four gunshot wounds.

The gunman then drove to the 12600 block of Wolfsville Road in Myersville, Md., and fired four shots at Linda Grossnickle, 44, a friend of Barbara Manna, police said. He missed her as she ran back into her home.

Finally, the gunman drove to Delauter's house down the road and shot and killed her shortly after 11 p.m., police said.

Grossnickle, Delauter and Barbara Manna were close friends and all three attended Grossnickle Church of the Brethren, on the corner of Meeting House Road and Wolfsville Road.

Both Grossnickle and Barbara Manna attended Delauter's funeral, Beverlin said.

During the service, Beverlin urged the mourners to seek healing for their hurt rather than retribution.

"Linda would say violence, vengeance never gets us anything except violence and vengeance," he said. "The peaceful lady who walked in our community (would want us) to relax, to begin to let go, to allow the peace of God to begin to come alive in our community."

Delauter also would want the community to support the other victims and their families, he said.

Sheila Delauter eulogized her sister-in-law as the epitome of all the roles she played in life. "Our earthly loss is heaven's gain," she said.

Daughter-in-law Pepper Delauter tearfully remembered how Linda Delauter welcomed her into the family and helped her through the death of her mother.

Her grandchildren "are missing her terribly as we all are," Pepper Delauter said. "She made her church, her community, her family a better place."

After the funeral a long procession of mourners walked up the snowy hill behind the church to the cemetery.

Standing in the blustery wind, Beverlin began the brief service committing Delauter to her final resting place with the comment, "My friend Linda, I do not like to say these words."

He concluded with, "We will love you. We will miss you but we know you are at peace."

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