It’s been one week since members of Huntington’s Highlawn Presbyterian church learned they lost their pastor. Police say the reverend Mark McCalla was murdered at a shooting range along Beech Fork Lake in Wayne County.
McCalla loved the outdoors. He liked to hike, mountain bike and shoot guns.
“He chose West Virginia because of the outdoors, and ironically that’s where he lost his life,” says Mike Kirtner, a member of Highlawn Presbyterian.
McCalla was from Columbus Ohio, but Kirtner says he wanted to be in West Virginia.
“He was offered a Church in Massachusetts near I think Boston and he could have gone their, but again because of the outdoor life this is where he was. Mark was a free thinker, he like South Park, he was not the stoic traditional if you remember the 1800’s that minister with the square jaw. Mark was a very accepting human being, very much strong in his faith, but very accepting of other people,” says Kirtner.
McCalla headed to the shooting range like he has before.
Today the site is empty. The gravel road that leads up the holler to the public shooting range is blocked off. It’s in the middle of a public hunting area along Beech Fork Lake.
In the early fall it’s especially busy, a popular spot for locals to site in deer rifles. But lately it’s also been known for something else.
“We’ve had some reports over the past year or so about some guns coming up missing from there. People may go out on the range to change their targets and come back and their guns are missing. So they’re apparently hiding laying in wait for them to go change their targets and then coming up their and stealing their guns,” says Sergeant Travis Williams of the Wayne County Sheriff's Department.
Williamson is one of the lead investigators. Williamson says McCalla was shot once in the face and dragged about 20 yards.
Both guns McCalla took to the range are missing but Williamson says it’s unclear if the shooter used one of those weapons. The Division of Natural Resources maintains the shooting range but it is not attended by any employees.
Lowell Cade, a former outdoors writer for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, says that makes it easier to steal from shooters who are all alone.
“Apparently there is some indication that there has been some thievery going on, in other words an individual that is a good for nothing, lurks around and catches a single shooter out there. And while he’s down range examining a target they sneak in and steal a weapon," Cade says.
"There had been a suspicion that some weapons had been lost because people had left their rifle or pistol on the table back where you shoot. There is a covered area their, they have a little shelter, built over the shooting area,” Cade added.
Williamson of the sheriff’s office says investigators are still trying to figure out a motive. McCalla is survived by two sons, a stepson and stepdaughter and a wife.