FARMINGTON — The Trinity United Methodist Church was packed with mourners Saturday afternoon, remembering the lives of six people killed two weeks ago in Texas.

Large color portraits of the victims — Carl Johnson, his daughter, Hannah Johnson, and her 6-year-old son, Kade Johnson, along with Thomas Kamp and his two adult sons, Austin and Nathan Kamp — were set at the front of the simple church.

As the church started filling an hour before the 1 p.m. service, mourners watched a slide show of family photographs, showing wedding photos of Carl and Cindy Johnson, family vacations, backyard parties, high school and college graduation photos of Hannah Johnson, pictures of family members swimming at the ocean and in backyard pools, an image of Hannah in her Mt. Blue High School cheering uniform, pictures that Kade drew for his grandparents, and lots of photos with Carl and Kade together. 

In each of the photos, the victims were smiling, hugging, celebrating. And Saturday’s memorial service embraced that theme.

Cindy Johnson — the lone survivor of the shootings that killed her family — led her relatives into the church, walking right behind bagpiper Bob Underwood. The large family filled the first four rows across two aisles. Elsewhere, it was a standing-room-only crowd in a church that seats 200.

The Rev. Terry McKinley, a former minister at the church, called the service a “difficult and daunting proceeding” to convene. But, “this is a warm and welcoming place,” he said, referring to the church community that he prayed would help the Johnson and Kamp families through their “malaise of grief, shock and horror, and the emotion that is just raging in every direction.”

“Focus,” he urged the congregation, “on the hope that is Jesus Christ.”

“We’re gathered to put our arms around each other,” he said, to work through the “grief and confusion” of the Texas murders (see accompanying story).

Reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, McKinley asked the congregation to ponder, “What gain has the worker from the toil of life?” and then to think about the “enduring and eternal memory of one who has lived in our midst.”

To aid in that thinking, a recording of John Lennon’s “Imagine” was played, with some people humming and quietly singing along. Elsewhere, people were openly crying.

Bob Lawrence, a former co-worker of Carl Johnson at the University of Maine at Farmington, offered a few memories of Carl, calling the 77-year-old retired custodian and human resources manager a “soft-spoken, caring man” who was not afraid to speak his mind or play the occasional practical joke.

Lawrence kept in touch with Carl and Cindy Johnson after they retired from UMF in 1999, saying he believed their vagabond Airstream existence was the couple’s way of “enjoying life to the fullest.”

And, he said, he hoped the good memories mourners had of Carl “will help bring peace to your heart and a smile to your face” in their grief.

The devotions to Hannah Johnson, 40, offered by three longtime friends from her high school and college years, were exceptionally emotional.

Melissa Hutchinson Rogers said she was “shaken to the core” after hearing the news of Hannah’s death. She remembers a noble young woman who “saw no social class, no religious difference, no status” separating her classmates in Farmington. She had a “kind of loyal acceptance and was true to all the people around her.”

Rogers has a child about the same age as Kade Johnson was, and said she spoke with Hannah often about how dear their children were to them.

“I will think of her for the rest of my life,” Rogers said, remembering “the kind of friend who makes a difference in your life without even knowing it.”

Hannah’s high school friend Napich Chea Waksman spoke next, calling Hannah a “wonderful, beautiful and loyal friend.” The women knew each other for 30 years, Waksman said, and stayed in touch through college and careers. “Every time we saw each other we became our once-silly selves again.”

Janelle Van, one among more than a dozen of Hannah’s Chi Omega Sorority sisters from the University of Maine attending the service, remembers meeting Hannah when they were both 20 years old. “She was strong, proud and sensitive,” Van remembers.

“I made it my life’s work to make that girl laugh,” Van said, and “she would do no less than the same for everyone around her.”

What Van most wanted the congregation to know was that after some struggles in her adult life, Hannah “finally had everything she always wanted. A child, a home, a job and the love of a good man” in Thomas Kamp.

“Her cup was full and that’s how we should always remember her,” Van said.

In remembering her cousin Kade, young Mariah Johnson said they loved cooking together. The girl said Kade called it “‘cousin cooking.’ We thought that was great.”

She remembered the first time Kade washed a cow, saying he wanted to hold the hose and she got to hold the pail. “We all love you, Kade,” the little girl said, eliciting tears throughout the church.

Then, standing with Mariah, Cindy Johnson talked about how she and Carl had decided to buy a home in Texas after they retired, and about their travels to Arizona and elsewhere, before finally settling in Hillsboro, Texas, in 2009. Hannah and Kade moved close by that same year, Johnson said, and after Hannah met Kamp, the couple always lived close enough that Kade could regularly see his grandparents.

“We spent so much time with Tom, Hannah and Kade,” Cindy Johnson said, and came to love the extended Kamp family, many of whom moved to Texas to be closer to Thomas. “Today, I feel their arms all around me,” Cindy said of the Kamps.

Before going much further, Cindy mentioned that she had spoken at a memorial service for all six victims in Midlothian, Texas, last weekend, and warned the Farmington congregation she may not be able to finish her thoughts a second time around.

Talking about her husband, Cindy said Carl “broke the mold. He marched to his own drummer, always,” she said, and “had such a passion for life.”

Pausing to gather herself, Cindy looked around and told her friends and family she’d had “a wonderful life. I could ask for no better.”

Then, glancing behind her at the picture of his smiling husband, Cindy said, “I would waltz across Texas with you any time.”

Turning back to the congregation, she said, “All of us need to live with the love and joy as all of them did,” and hug the people you love.

After Cindy sat down, the Rev. McKinley encouraged the community to call the Johnsons and send notices of love and support in the months to come. “This time of healing is going to continue for a long time,” he said, and the family needs Farmington’s support.

Then, at the request of Cindy and her son, Erik Johnson, who traveled to Texas to accompany his mother home after the murders, McKinley asked that in addition to prayers for the Johnson and Kamp families, “I challenge you to be in prayer for William Hudson,” who has been charged with six counts of capital murder in connection with the murders.

“It’s a huge challenge,” he said, but then, “life is a challenge,” and the Johnsons believed that Hudson would benefit from the support of prayer.

A uniformed Naval honor guard stood at attention throughout the service, and at the end unfurled an American flag for the presentation of taps before re-folding the flag for its formal presentation to Cindy Johnson.

Carl was a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Following the service, the Johnsons hosted a fellowship of coffee and dessert at the church.

[email protected]

Texas to seek death penalty in killings

In what Texas prosecutors are calling the “single most horrific crime” committed in Anderson County in modern times, Carl, Hannah and Kade Johnson were among six people killed while enjoying a weekend camping trip in Tennessee Colony, Texas, on the night of Nov. 14.

Carl and Hannah Johnson were formerly of Farmington. Kade was born in Boston, Mass.

In addition to the Johnsons, Hannah’s boyfriend, Thomas Kamp, and his adult sons, Austin, 21, and Nathan, 23, — both of Oceanside, Calif. — were killed. All of the men were shot, according to police, and Hannah was beaten after fleeing to her father’s camper.

Carl’s wife, Cynthia Johnson, was the sole survivor of the attack, escaping and hiding in nearby woods until she could call police early the following morning.

William Hudson, 33, has been charged with six counts of capital murder.

According to police, the Johnson and Kamp families were camping on Thomas Kamp’s property to celebrate the upcoming birthday of his oldest son. Kamp had bought the property in August from a member of the Hudson family, and Kamp’s family told police William Hudson was unhappy with the land sale.

Hudson had spent a lot of time on the property with his father, who died of cancer in December 2014.

In a news conference Nov. 18, Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said during “what should have been an exciting birthday weekend event for one of the Kamp sons, Anderson County was hit by a historically horrendous event where six individuals lost their lives by the hand of a neighbor who first appeared to be helpful.”

Earlier in the day of the attack, Hudson had helped the campers pull a truck out of the mud. Later, according to a police affidavit, Hudson “returned and sat with Cynthia Johnson and her family and consumed alcoholic beverages with them. He later accompanied several family members into the surrounding woods, after which Cynthia Johnson heard multiple gunshots.”

According to the affidavit, Hudson returned to the campsite alone, and then chased Carl and Hannah Johnson toward the camper, where they were killed.

Cynthia Johnson, according to police, witnessed the attack on her husband and daughter from her hiding place.

According to police, after killing the six, Hudson is believed to have used a tractor to haul the bodies of the Kamps and 6-year-old Kade Johnson to a pond on Hudson’s property, where he dumped the bodies.

When police went to Hudson’s home, they saw bloodstains on the tractor and on Hudson’s clothes before he barricaded himself inside the house.

Following Hudson’s arrest, a neighbor told police she heard shots on the night of the attack, and had heard a man begging: “Stop! Stop! Please stop!”

Hudson is being held on a $2.5 million bond awaiting trial.

Last week, according to The Dallas Morning News, Texas District Court Judge Deborah Oakes Evans placed a gag order on media reporting on this case, banning journalists from talking with attorneys, police and witnesses, and from reporting on evidence discussed in public proceedings, or taking photographs of Hudson as he was moved between the jail and the courtroom. The order allowed media to report only on who offered testimony, but not the content of that testimony.

A number of media outlets in Texas immediately protested the order, which was revised Wednesday to ban police and the prosecution and defense attorneys from talking about the case, but lifting the ban on media reporting and photography. According to the Palestine Herald-Press, the order barring attorneys from talking with the media was designed to ensure a fair trial for Hudson.

According to the Herald-Press, in revising her order, Evans said, “Muzzling the attorneys, their staffs and law enforcement officers is necessary due to the ‘unusually emotional nature of the issues’ associated with the case, and the extensive local and national media coverage of the mass murders.”

According to people who know Hudson, he has been violent in the past, although Sheriff Taylor said the prior violence was never close to this level.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Catrina Hudson, Hudson’s former wife with whom he shares a child, completed an affidavit in support of a divorce petition in 2006 in which she wrote “his temper and violence are getting worse and worse.”

She told the court, “I am deathly afraid of him, and afraid that he will kill me, and my daughter if he gets the chance.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, Hudson was charged with assault on Nov. 6, a little more than a week before the murders.

“He got into an argument with a man, who pushed Hudson. Hudson fell and a pistol fell from his pocket,” according to the newspaper. And, “a woman who witnessed the incident was pushed by Hudson, who left the scene.” That push led to the assault charge.

According to Texas media reports, Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell said she will seek the death penalty against Hudson.

In Texas, a jury decides whether that sentence is carried out by lethal injection or the defendant spends life in prison without the possibility of parole.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.