- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Jillian Johnson was an artistic force in the Lafayette community who worked to beautify her neighborhood while Mayci Breaux was a young woman looking forward to a new job and married life with a longtime boyfriend.

But both lives off to such promising starts were cut short when a gunman opened fire on a movie theater. Funeral services for both women were held Monday. Johnson, 33, was laid to rest in a Lafayette service that reflected her love of music and south Louisiana culture while hundreds of people packed a Franklin church to remember 21-year-old Breaux.

Police say John Russell Houser, 59, stood up about 20 minutes into the movie last Thursday and began firing before ultimately taking his own life.

The Advocate newspaper (https://bit.ly/1GVwEEw ) reported that 250 people crowded into the chapel for Johnson’s funeral service.

Josh Caffery, a longtime friend, read a message from Johnson’s husband, Jason Brown.

“I was in love with who she was, and who she wanted to be; what she knew, and what she wanted to know,” Brown wrote.

Her band mates from an all-female group called The Figs sang during the funeral as her husband, stepdaughter, parents, and brother looked on. A ukulele was placed near her casket.

A friend of Johnson’s, Christian Mader, described how success drove her. Johnson and her husband owned gift boutiques in Lafayette and New Orleans, and she also designed T-shirts. She was active in her neighborhood, where she planted trees to beautify the area.

“She was in touch with her limits, but she chose not to accept them,” said friend Christiaan Mader.

In Franklin, an old town in Louisiana’s sugar cane country, 450 to 500 people packed the Church of the Assumption Monday to remember Breaux, The Daily Advertiser (https://bit.ly/1GVwEEw ) reported.

Rev. Lloyd Benoit told mourners that Breaux was “kind, always polite and always with that characteristic smile.” Benoit told the standing-room only crowd that many were asking why this tragedy happened but it was a question “…for which I do not have an answer.”

“Today is raw and horrible,” Anne Oestnecher, a cousin designated as the Breaux family spokesman, told The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1U35XHq ).

Breaux’s boyfriend, Matthew Rodriguez, was wounded but survived and attended the funeral.

“We’re just so thankful that Matthew survived. They were planning to spend the rest of their lives together,” Oestnecher said.

A total of nine people were wounded in the shooting. Lafayette police spokesman Paul Mouton said two remain hospitalized and the rest have been released.

Authorities on Monday also handed back The Grand 16 movie theater where the shootings happened to the company, Mouton said. That step came after police finished processing the crime scene.

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