As news spread of a presumed murder-suicide involving a beloved family from Mission Viejo, leaders from their church and school on Wednesday offered their support through prayer.
A 911 call from a relative on Tuesday led sheriff's deputies to the discovery of four bodies in a hilltop suburban home belonging to Mark and Lydia Sheer, according to public records. The couple had lived there for more than 15 years with their two children, Michael, 21, and Amy, 15.
For the record:
An earlier version of this post stated that the church confirmed the deaths of its parishioners from members of the family. In fact they learned of the deaths from a friend of the family.
"We are all devastated to learn about this tragedy. The Sheers were part of our family here at Mount of Olives [Lutheran Church]," said senior pastor John Steward, "and we ask everyone to pray for their extended family and friends."
Sheriff's officials have identified the victims as two males and two females, but have yet to name them.
But Steward, according to a statement, said he received confirmation of the Sheers' deaths from a friend of the family. Mark Sheer worked with the church's prison ministry, and both husband and wife taught Bible study classes, their neighbors say.
"Our primary concern is the welfare of our congregation, and particularly our teens and young adults who knew the Sheer children," Steward said, adding that while recent church services had focused on a series on language of love, he would change this weekend's message to dealing with tragedies and grieving in difficult times.
Mount of Olives, with 1,800 members, holds an evening service on Saturdays and three morning services on Sundays. Grief counselors will be available at the end of each session to help the Sheers' many friends and fellow worshipers.
At Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine, where Amy Sheer was enrolled for her freshman year, officials cited Psalm 46:1-2 in a message to the student body and faculty: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."
Officials planned a special chapel service to pray for the family and support the campus community, according to a letter from school directors Jeffrey Beavers and Brian Underwood. Crean's crisis response team will provide counseling services for students.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department is working to confirm the victims' fingerprints before releasing their identities, said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a department spokesman.