EXCLUSIVE: St. Petersburg Pastor Tim Kelley talks of church shooting that killed daughter Hannah

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Pastor Tim Kelley needs all his strength just to come to back to his church, a place that is supposed to be safe.

"When the accident came, I really didn't have the heart to be in the property alone," said Pastor Kelley. "It's like post-traumatic stress.  Your brain puts up these barriers, and you don't even remember certain things."

From the security of his second floor office, he tells what happened that broke his family's heart.

In February, Pastor Kelley's daughter died in front of a congregation he has led for 30 years. He had just finished a sermon when a church member came to him.

Someone came running and said someone has been shot.  I didn't understand anything.  I started running and following them and kept yelling and following them and yelling, 'Who has been shot? Who has been shot?' And they said 'Hannah,'" Pastor Kelley recalled.

The Pastor and his wife try not to remember what they saw.  Hannah lay crumpled on the floor.

"It's like the snapshots that I get.  And trust me, I am in no rush of wanting to remember everything. I am a coward when it comes to that. But, I don't think Hannah sensed pain or fear," said Pastor Kelley.

Investigators determined a church member in a closet with Hannah's boyfriend accidentally fired the gun. She hung on for nearly a week, but then died.

In a memorial service shortly thereafter, the pastor forgave and even embraced the shooter, Moises Zambrano. But shortly after that service, Pastor Kelley decided to take a sabbatical. He tried to find answers.

"I am not going to forsake those core beliefs that God is good.  I have to think like this, the other road of thinking is a pretty steep slope," said Pastor Kelley.

"It feels that way, sometimes.  That God was cruel.  But I can't change the fact that God is good.  I have to trust that God knew what he was doing and he called my daughter home."

But, this church will no longer be a second home. The pastor's wife chooses not to go back. He tells me they were planning to move to a new location anyway. He will return to the pulpit later this month and then later this year, the congregation will worship in a new place without haunting memories.

Through tears the pastor said, "I miss my daughter. A piece of us is gone. We will never be the same. I just miss her, I just want to hold her, that's what me and my wife say, we just want to hold her."

And now, they hold onto their other daughter, Sadie.  Only seven, she needs her parents more than ever. But they need her, too.

"One night not long ago, we were both crying, and Sadie came in and pushed me out of the way.  She holds her mom and whispers in her ear, 'Mom, Hannah is in heaven.'  I just remember thinking my goodness what a little angel sent from God for us and we have been blessed."

Reporter's notes:

I had wanted to talk to Pastor Kelley one-on-one for quite some time.  I watched the memorial for his daughter, and was struck by his amazing strength and his compassion.

The above interview was difficult and I was moved to tears many times.  I realize we are journalists and need to be objective. But we are human as well -- mothers, daughters, sisters.

Sunday night, you will learn more about Pastor Kelley.  While he is grieving, he also helping others in this community who have recently made headlines.  He is helping others heal, even though his heart is broken too.

I wanted to follow up on a second story, because we do hear about all these tragedies, we also should hear about those trying to make a difference.

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