DIX HILLS, N.Y. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot and killed his girlfriend before taking his own life earlier this month, was laid out Tuesday in an open silver casket surrounded by flowers and displays of family snapshots at a church where hundreds of mourners gathered at a wake to remember him.
The wake, to be followed by a funeral on Wednesday, was held at the Upper Room Christian World Center in Dix Hills, east of New York City and a few miles north of the West Babylon home where the 25-year-old Belcher was raised. A woman answering the telephone at the center’s office earlier Tuesday said she had no information on details of the funeral but noted members of the center’s clergy weren’t expected to participate.
The center, which features an auditorium capable of seating at least 1,000 people, describes itself on a website as “a Bible based non-denominational, multi-racial, family church.”
A man outside the church, who stopped photographers from entering the wake, said the Belcher family had no comment. Mourners leaving the wake also declined to speak with reporters.
Police say Belcher fatally shot 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins on Dec. 1 at the Kansas City home they shared with their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey. They say he then drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, where coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed his suicide.
Friends have said the relationship between Belcher and Perkins was strained. The couple briefly lived apart recently before getting back together by Thanksgiving, friend Brianne York said.
Perkins, who was from Texas, was remembered at two funeral services last week.
Belcher starred at West Babylon High School before playing college football at the University of Maine. He joined the Chiefs in 2009 as an undrafted free agent but became a starter during the 2012 season.
In the days following the shooting, Belcher’s family erected a small shrine outside the West Babylon home, hanging jerseys and team banners and displaying trophies and other awards.
Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, who was visiting him and witnessed Perkins’ death, declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter in a telephone call on Tuesday. Shepherd has temporary custody of the couple’s daughter, Kansas City police said.