Sam Houston State University cheerleader Rachel Pendray was shot to death Sunday night by a friend whose suicide she prevented three weeks earlier.
Pendray, 20, was killed at Brook Place Apartments by 24-year-old Jake Taylor, police said. She was shot several times, they said, before Taylor turned the gun on himself.
According to a variety of sources, including police, witnesses, and the gunman’s mother, here is how the evening unfolded:
Taylor stopped by Pendray’s apartment around 11 p.m. to thank her for saving his life on Nov. 16, when he attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills. He was also supposed to deliver her a Christmas card and $100 bill from his mother.
The two went into a room shortly after his arrival, and talked for about an hour. Roommates heard several gunshots afterward. One of Pendray’s roommates hid in her room whole the other tried to enter the room. The door was locked.
The Huntsville-Walker County Police Communications Center received a call from Pendray’s roommates and sorority sisters at approximately 11:45 p.m.
Sgt. Gary Howze and several other officers were the first on the scene.
“There is a very strong chance that Taylor shot Pendray and then proceeded to shoot himself,” said Howze. “Right now, our biggest issue is not the ‘what,’ it’s the ‘why.’ We want to provide answers to the families.”
Howze said the investigation is not yet closed.
There have been mixed reports regarding Pendray’s and Taylor’s relationship. According to some of her sorority sisters, Pendray had once been romantically involved with Taylor and was trying to break up with him at the time of her death. Other sources called the relationship an “obsessive-type thing.”
Mark Pendray, Rachel’s father, and Sarah Sheffield, Rachel’s best friend from high school, say there was never a romantic relationship between the two.
“This was not her boyfriend – it was an acquaintance,” Mark said.
According to Taylor’s mother and Sheffield, Taylor called Pendray on Nov. 16, saying that had taken a number of sleeping pills and was alone. Pendray immediately called 911, and emergency crews rushed him to Ben Taub Hospital. He stayed in intensive care for four days.
He had also attempted suicide on Oct. 25, his mother said.
Pendray was a sophomore at SHSU working toward a major in pre-nursing. She was a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and was on the school’s all-girl cheerleading squad.
“This is a horrible tragedy. We pray for the family involved and we wish these things never happened,” said SHSU President James Gaertner. “We are deeply, deeply saddened by it all.”
Dean of Students John Yarabeck said of Pendray: “She was one of those students very involved on campus. Her loss has a tremendous effect on students.”