Texas church massacre survivor John Holcombe and his pregnant wife, Crystal Holcombe, had already picked out a name for the unborn child who — along with Crystal and two dozen others — was killed when a gunman opened fire on a Sunday morning service.
On Facebook, John wrote that though the couple did not know if the child was a boy or a girl, they had planned to name it “Carlin Brite ‘Billy Bob’ Holcombe.”
“This includes Crystal’s pick for a girl, a boy, and the nickname the kids gave the baby,” he wrote.
Crystal, a 36-year-old mother of five, was about 18 weeks pregnant with her sixth child when she was killed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The baby was to be her first with John, whom she met in 2011 at First Baptist.
Three of her kids from her first marriage — Emily, Greg and Megan — were also killed along with John’s parents, Brian and Karla Holcombe; his brother Marc Holcombe; and Marc’s infant daughter, Noah.
In total, 25 people and Crystal’s unborn baby were killed. (The shooter then killed himself shortly after fleeing the scene.)
Crystal’s oldest son, 15-year-old Philip, was sick and didn’t go to church that day, the Hill family says. Her 7-year-old daughter, Evelyn, was in the congregation but survived along with her stepfather.
Of the unborn baby, John wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that Crystal was “very thoughtful when coming up with these names.”
“Carlin means small champion,” he wrote, noting that the child’s first name was an echo of the names for other relatives, including his mother and the mother of Crystal’s first husband, Carolyn Hill.
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John Hill, the father of Crystal’s late husband, Peter Hill, and grandfather of her five kids, tells PEOPLE how she and John Holcombe came up with the unique name.
“Karla and Carolyn — ‘Carlin,’ ” heexplains.
“The second name is ‘Brite,’ because even when it’s the darkest out, even a little candle can be light and that is where we are,” he says.
As for “Billy Bob,” it was a nickname from the other children, John Hill says: “The kids, in a little bit of hillbilly fashion, the kids wanted to name the baby ‘William John,’ and it [became] ‘Billy Bob.’ ”
John says he walked Crystal down the aisle to marry John Holcombe. The blended family’s children referred to Peter as “old dad” and their stepfather as “new dad,” he says.
On the day of the shooting, Crystal’s husband was in the church recording booth with a horrifying view of the violence, he says.”He saw his wife protect his children.”
“A true Texas treasure,” John Hill says of his former daughter-in-law. “She was in her sanctuary when evil entered in.”