Pastor Cary Gordon of Cornerstone World Outreach said Kendra Suing, 10, and Alysha Suing, 8, bombarded a bus driver for the church with questions after a summer lesson about the sinfulness of practicing witchcraft.
The bus shuttles youths to the organization’s Club Genesis, a program that reaches out to at-risk children in the community. “The kids were pelting our bus captain with questions constantly all the way home, about that issue, why is it wrong,” he said. “Our bus captain got the creepy feeling that they obviously had a lot of weird stuff going on in their house.”
Kendra and Alysha Suing’s stepfather, Lawrence Douglas Harris Sr. has been arrested and charged with their murder. Harris, 25, of Sioux City, told investigators he was casting a spell that “had gone bad” when his stepdaughters died Sunday.
After the lesson on witchcraft, Gordon said the Suing girls didn’t attend another session of the program until the last one of the year in November.
“They had a real earful on why witchcraft is wrong that day, and then they got back home and then they went missing for a long time after that,” he said. “We wondered if the kids didn’t go home and say, ‘Dad, the church says what you’re doing is wrong,’ and dad says, ‘Well, you’re not going back.’ That’s our speculation.”
Formed in 1999, Gordon said Cornerstone invites children to attend the Genesis program about God’s Word at their studio on Saturdays. Children are transported by bus to the program, which features an elaborate spaceship setting with flashing lights along with puppets, music and games to convey a Biblically-based lessons of character and morals.
Gordon said he believes the Suings found out about the program through a neighbor or community outreach volunteer. He said the girls attended the opening session of Club Genesis in the summer and attended faithfully until the lesson about the practice of witchcraft.
“They came very, very faithfully,” he said. “In fact, they earned a Club Genesis Bible that was professionally printed with out puppet characters on the front of it.”
Gordon said the girls were very inquisitive and always wanted to volunteer during the program.
“They were sweet little girls. Polite little girls and obviously very pretty little girls,” he said. “There’s a lot of broke hearts, I think, in our volunteers.”
Cornerstone has approximately 200 adult volunteers who go house to house every week knocking on doors. Gordon said they try to reach out to the parents of the children who attend Club Genesis. He said he never met the girls’ parents while they attended Club Genesis.
“Ultimately we hope to reach their whole family,” he said. “In this case we weren’t able to obviously.”
Gordon first met the girls’ mother, Marla Suing, on Monday at the home where their bodies were found stabbed and strangled late Sunday afternoon.
“She was obviously in shock. She was shaking and beside herself as any parent would be,” he said.
Gordon said Suing told him that problems with another child in the program was the reason for the girls’ absence from the program, not the lesson about the practice of witchcraft.
As Suing family members hauled items such as a child’s bed out of the home at 1420 Nebraska St. on Tuesday, next door neighbor Marie White said Lawrence Harris Sr. “seemed pretty nice” and that she hadn’t seen any signs of the suspected rituals or spells that authorities are referring to.
Other than a few casual hellos, White said she didn’ have much contact with Harris Sr.
“I was mad. I didn’t think that he would do something like that to them,” said White, who lives at 1418 Nebraska St.
The neighborhood is mostly empty with few children, White said, and her 10-year-old daughter often would play with Kendra Suing. Kendra loved playing with her dogs, White said. The last time White saw Kendra, she brought cookies to her home on Christmas.
“She was a pretty outgoing girl,” White said.