Four children, ages 6, 8, 9 and 10, were among the people who died when a tornado tore through Lee County, Alabama, on Sunday. The oldest victim was 89-year-old Jimmy Lee Jones. Seven people killed were all members of a family united by marriage.
“Just keep those families in your prayers,” Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said. “It’s a tragic situation.”
On Tuesday, Harris released a list of names of the 23 people. Here’s what we know about them.
Family loses seven people
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said seven people linked by marriage were killed in one home, AL.com reported. Eric Jamal Stenson, 38, Florel Tate Stenson, 63, and Henry Lewis Stenson, 65, were connected by marriage to James Henry Tate, 86, Maggie Delight Robinson, 57, Raymond Robinson Jr., 63, and Tresia Robinson, 62.
Eric Stenson was visiting his parents, Henry and Florel Stenson, when the storm hit. “He was a good guy,” Dusty Bell, 38, told the Washington Post. The two grew up as neighbors and played baseball together. Stenson was a “really good” shortstop, Bell said.
Jonathan Marquez Bowen
Nine-year-old Jonathan Marquez Bowen, 9, was fascinated with the Alexa virtual assistant, his mother Shamel Hart told WRBL-TV.
“He was a very sweet boy, very intelligent,” she said. “He loved to ask Alexa questions. He’d say, ‘Alexa, tell me all you can about the solar system.'”
His 12-year-old Jaylen said Jonathan was loved by all who knew him, “He was very smart. A lot of people loved my brother.”
Jonathan’s family said he loved playing video games and watching gamers on YouTube. He also liked math, trying to dance and bringing joy to those around him.
Jonathan and his family were visiting cousins in Beauregard on Sunday when the tornado struck. One of those cousins, Mykhala Waldon, was killed when the twister destroyed the house.
Jonathan was taken to East Alabama Medical Center where he died.
“He really fought hard, I know he was fighting really hard for me, I believe he heard me crying for him to try and I know he was really really trying,” his mother told WRBL. “When we were in the hospital, and his body was under so much stress, and I told him it’s okay to let go. I really want you here with me, but it is okay to let go. I told him mom won’t be mad, mommy still loves you it’s okay to let go. I love you and when I said that he just let go.”
Mykhala Waldon’s aunt Tameika Waldon-Carter wrote on Facebook on Sunday night, “A piece of my (heart) is gone and i just cant understand why Lord!!! Help me my world is forever crumbled my baby gone y’all.”
Other Facebook posts and comments described 8-year-old Mykhala as an angel and a dancer.
Her father, Michael Waldon, posted on Facebook early Monday morning, “I’m devastated forever.”
A GoFundMe page set up for the family said, “Tyesha Hart lost her oldest daughter, Mykhayla, to the violent storm. The family has also lost their entire home and all of their belongings, as have so many other families in Lee County.”
The page also said Tyesha Hart, her two younger daughters and her boyfriend remain hospitalized in Birmingham.
Ryan Pence and Felicia Woodall
Felicia Woodall, 22, was a transplant to Alabama from Florida. She lived in Panama City for years, the News Herald reported.
She and her fiance, Ryan Pence, also 22, recently bought a home in Beauregard.
Sunday’s tornado destroyed the home and killed Woodalland Pence, according to social media posts by family members.
A longtime friend, Amber Finley, told the News Herald, “It’s so sad. I don’t know that I have ever met a nicer person.”
Ten-year-old Taylor Thornton had been camping with a friend and they had returned to the friend’s house when the storm hit. Her father raced there after the storm, NBC News reports, but the neighborhood was destroyed. David Thornton was allowed to help carry his daughter’s body from the scene.
Taylor was a fourth-grader at Lee-Scott Academy, a Christian school in Auburn, Alabama. She lived with her her father David, her mother Ashley and her 10-month-old brother.
“She was a wonderful God-filled little lady,” her mother said.
“She was the air in my lungs,” David Thornton said.
Sheila Creech and Marshal Lynn Grimes
Sheila Creech and Marshal Lynn Grimes first met years ago, had two children and broke up. The couple rekindled their romance online about two years ago, Creech’s granddaughter Desteni Clifton told the Montgomery Advertiser.
Creech and Grimes, both 59, were planning to get married in January. Creech, who lost her apartment in Panama City Beach, Florida, to Hurricane Michael, was occasionally staying with Grimes in Beauregard.
The couple was part of the camping trip that included Taylor Thornton. Grimes’ 11-year-old daughter was also on the trip. Both of her legs were broken in the tornado.
“I guess they maybe didn’t hear the sirens, or if they did it was too late for them to get anywhere safe,” Clifton told the Advertiser. “It was a total surprise. She was very young and so was he. We were very very shocked to hear the whole thing happened.”
Grimes’ friend John Allen Coker said Grimes rode with Christian Motorcyclists Association and “loved to tell folks about Jesus.”
“He loved his family, worked hard and was an all-around great person,’’ Coker told al.com.
Armando “A.J.” Hernandez
Kayla Melton shared a desperate plea Sunday on Facebook after the tornado slammed through Lee County, “Please look for my baby he’s 6 years old his name is Armando Hernandez he goes by AJ last seen on lee road 38. Anyone in the area please help me find him please!!!!!”
A few hours later, A.J.’s aunt Tina Melton posted a Facebook message saying the 6-year-old boy did not survive.
“Little AJ didn’t make it. He was found but he didn’t survive. I can’t even type the word. He was a little Angel from God and God wanted him back. He was a precious little man that was loved by everyone,” she wrote.
A.J.’s grandfather Bobby Kidd told WAIT-TV, “He kept a smile on his face all the time. He never met a stranger and he loved everybody. A.J. loved his brother more than anything.”
Kidd told the TV station he was watched his grandson sing in a school performance two days before the tornado.
“I was lucky enough to be off work and I got to go see it. And I thank God that he gave me that opportunity because it was the last few minutes that we got to spend with him, just me and him,” Kidd said.
Kidd told al.com that A.J. did “everything a 6 year old likes to do,” including playing basketball, watching cartoons and eating chicken nuggets.
A.J.’s brother, 10-year-old Jordan Griffin, is recovering at Children’s of Alabama hospital. Steven Griffin, Kayla Melton’s boyfriend, is recovering at UAB hospital. The family lost their home in the story. A GoFundMe page set up for them.
“She was a woman of faith and she was a bright light for our family. That’s the best way to describe her,” Vicki’s son, Ray Braswell, told The Weather Channel’s Dave Malkoff.
Braswell, 69, died after the tornado picked up the mobile home where she and six families were huddled and flipped it on the ground.
“We heard it coming but by the time we knew what it was, it hit us. That’s when all hell broke loose,” Braswell’s son-in-law, Steve Whatley, told the Associated Press. “It picked us up and dumped us back down 50 feet away.” Whatley’s wife was hospitalized with multiple injuries.
Braswell’s daughter-in-law Shannon Rush told al.com Braswell had six grandchildren and was sweet and kind.
“She loved to read and spend time with all of her grandkids,’’ Rush said.
Emmanuel, Jimmy Lee and Mary Louise Jones
Emmanuel Jones lived with his parents, Jimmy Lee and Mary Louise, and an older brother, Benjamin, AP reported. They were all home when the tornado sheared their house down to the foundation. Benjamin, 56, was the only person to survive.
Mary Louise, 83, and Jimmy Lee, 89, were “ordinary folks” who had been married more than 60 years, their daughter Jackie Jones said.
They worked on a farm when they were younger, but now they enjoyed sitting on the front porch and talking about “the olden days and how they were raised,” she said.
Her mother also taught Sunday school for decades.
Emmanuel, 53, liked to watch football and basketball when he wasn’t doing yard work for neighbors.
On Tuesday, Jackie Jones searched for her mother’s photo albums amid the wreckage, hoping to find any pictures of her parents or brother.
David Wayne Dean
Carol Dean raced from her job at Walmart on Sunday when she couldn’t reach her husband after the tornado struck. As she pushed her way past sheriff’s deputies, she saw that it was too late. Her children had found David Dean’s body in a neighbor’s yard, AP reported.
“They took me down to him,” Dean said, “and I got to spend a little time with him before they took him away.”
“He was my wedding gift,” she said of the man she married three years ago. “He was one in a million. He’d send me flowers to work just to let me know he loved me. He’d send me some of the biggest strawberries in the world. I’m not going to be the same.”
Friends of David Dean, 53, called him “Roaddog” because of his love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, AP reported.
“He loved his Harley. Until I come into the picture, that was his baby,” Carol Dean said.
His friend Jerry Dodwell said Dean was like a “stepfather” to him. He told AL.com, “He sure meant a lot to me. He was a kind-hearted guy. I just can’t believe all this.”
This is a developing story. Check back often for more details as they become available.