Parishioners join in prayer for slain organist

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA9) -- Police have been following hundreds of leads since they released a composite sketch of a man, they believe, fatally shot Alexandria music teacher Ruthanne Lodato and injured a family caretaker.

On Sunday, parishioners came to pray for her family.

Organ music filled Blessed Sacrament Church during Sunday Mass. It's the same organ Lodato would often play had she been alive.

Father Richard Dyer led a prayer for the 59-year-old music teacher and another member who died suddenly last week.

"Then we lost, as if that was not bad enough, Ruthanne Lodato. Murdered just a few blocks from our church," Dyer said.

It is Lodato's violent end that has troubled this community.

She was a longtime parishioner. Her family came to mass to pray and mourn.

Lodato, 59, was shot and killed when she opened the door last Thursday morning. In this seemingly random shooting, her mother's caretaker was also shot but survived. Police have released a composite sketch of the man police are looking for.

At Lodato's home, people have been leaving flowers and notes remembering a talented music teacher, a wonderful person and what she meant to the community.

Gabrielle Richichi took piano lessons from Lodato for 9 years. She learned of the tragedy while studying abroad in Italy and joined us via Skype.

"My mom called to tell me she didn't make it. I immediately burst into tears," Richichi says.

Richichi remembers her last recital several years ago, and her teacher beaming with pride.

"She said 'You played it perfectly. I'm so proud of you,'" Richichi said.

Richichi's mother was a longtime friend of Lodato's, ever since they met in high school.

"God must take the angels because she didn't have an enemy," Lori DiCesare said.

On this Sunday, people near and far are saying prayers for the Lodato family.

"Today we heal and we have hope in the resurrection," Dyer said.

A date for Lodato's funeral hasn't been set. But the pastor's are tentatively saying next Saturday, waiting on another pastor to return home to conduct the funeral.


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