Huntingdon County, Pa- Tuesday, 24-year-old Huntingdon County native Olivia Cunningham (maiden name: Olivia Miller) was shot and killed outside an outlet mall in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Thus far, police have described the shooting as random, establishing no motive or connection between those involved.
The gunman was identified as 21-year-old Leon Steven Jones, from Tennesse. Jones also shot and killed another man, 75-year-old John Marr of Templeton, Massachusetts, before he killed himself.
The shootings occured in the late afternoon at approximatley 3:49 p.m. at the Tanger Outlests in Sevierville, TN. It’s reported that by the time police arrived, the shooter (Jones) and Cunningham were dead, with the Marr being taken to the hospital before he died.
Police believe both were shot with a semi-automatic handgun.
The shooting left shoppers and employees seeking shelter at the mall. Police placed the area on lockdown… which was lifted after police determined there was no longer a threat to the public. The mall was reopened by 4:30 p.m. but closed early that night at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, WTAJ spoke exclusively with Pastor Greg Lesniewski of the McConnellstown Church of the Nazarene, the church Olivia Cunningham grew up attending, about Tuesday’s shooting.
Lesniewski said the community will forever remember Olivia as someone who was kind-hearted, helpful, and always there.
WTAJ was also given more details on what led up to Tuesday’s shooting. According to Lesniewski, Olivia was in Tennessee with her husband’s family. She was visiting the Pidgeon Forge area, a popular tourist destination in Sevier County home to the theme park Dollywood. WTAJ was told this was part of a girls trip for Olivia who traveled with her in-laws.
Lesniewski says this was meant to be a fun and quick vacation… but what unfolded was a tragedy no one expected.
He told WTAJ that Olivia stepped outside of a “COACH” store at an outlet mall in Seveirville to wish her younger sister a happy birthday on the phone. While she was on the phone with her sister, Olivia was shot and killed.
“It’s just unbelief, I was with the family yesterday and they can’t make heads or tails of it,” Lesniewski said.
“She loved people, she had a way with communicating with people… she had a gift,” he added.
More of Lesniewski told WTAJ is found in the videos linked to this story.
More on Olivia Cunningham
Most recently, Olivia lived in York, PA with her husband Caleb, whom she married in 2015. The two both attended Millersville University where Olivia earned a degree in Communications.
Before college, Olivia grew up in Huntingdon County and graduated from Huntingdon Area High School in 2012. Her family still lives in James Creek.
In York, Olivia worked with a Christian Ministry that helped those with disabilities. Those that knew her say she was a peacemaker and lived a life of service.
A funeral service will be held for Olivia in York, PA. Following the funeral, a memorial service will be held in Huntingdon County. No date or location has been set for that memorial.
Coping with Olivia’s Loss…
Pastor Lesniewski told WTAJ he had his Easter Sunday sermon written a couple days ago… but now that sermon and Easter Sunday will have a different, more somber feel.
Lesniewski said Olivia’s family (the Miller family) has been a back-bone of the church since the 1930’s. He told WTAJ they usually organize an Easter Sunday egg hunt… but this year they’ll instead be mourning the loss of their daughter.
A Go-Fund-Me page has been started to help raise money for the Miller family, and Olivia’s husband Caleb.
The page urges people to help Caleb Cunningham offset “financial burdens” because “Olivia never failed to be there for anyone when they needed help.”
The page hit more than half of the $3,000 goal in the first two hours.
Below is a link to the page: