John and Joy “Tinker” Hruby and their daughter Katherine
Courtesy John Hrbuy/Facebook; Courtesy Katherine Hruby/Facebook
Amid the colorful flowers, spoken tributes and photo collages celebrating the life of a murdered Oklahoma mother, father and daughter at a memorial service on Sunday, one name and face were purposefully absent – that of the teenage son and brother who police say confessed to killing his family
With Alan Hruby, 19, sitting in jail, the hundreds who filled the blonde-brick sanctuary and an overflow gymnasium at First United Methodist Church in Duncan, Oklahoma, mourned the loss of small-town newspaper publisher John Hruby, 50, his wife Tinker, 48, and their daughter Katherine, 17, with muffled laughter and quiet tears.
John, an active Boy Scout leader among his many civic and charitable activities, was eulogized with words such as “trustworthy,” “loyal,” “friendly,” “cheerful” and “reverent” – traits among the 12 points of the Scout Law. His wife, christened Joy at birth but known to all as Tinker, was remembered as a devoted friend who was equally committed to doing good for the community and her family.
Even with three rows at the front of the sanctuary reserved for members of Katherine’s high school volleyball teammates, it was the tribute from her coach, Sandy Mitchell, that resonated most deeply.
When Mitchell took on the coaching job at Duncan High School three years ago, at the start of Katherine’s freshman year, “I didn’t know her, but I had lots of people tell me, ‘Watch out for that one,’ ” she said to laughter. Indeed, the high school junior kept both coach and players laughing with relentless pranks such as chasing them with geckos and grabbing the phones they left behind to take selfies for them to discover later.
“Katherine was the only person that could make me mad and laugh at the same time,” Mitchell said. “When Katherine became your friend, you knew you had a friend for life.”
“Off the court, her spot was always next to me on that bench,” the coach continued, adding that Katherine had a specific cheer and encouragement for each member of her team. “Sometimes I had to tell her, ‘Be quiet, let me coach.’ The girls would be looking at her instead of looking at me.”
And she recalled their last conversation, at school on the day before police say Alan shot first his mother, then his sister and finally his father, as each entered the house. Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks said the motive was money; as the family’s sole survivor, Alan believed he would inherit money to help him pay off a $3,000 debt to a “loan shark,” Hicks said at a news conference.
Stephens County Jail
Katherine would have been a senior next year. “I wanted to talk to Katherine about next season being her season as the leader – I needed to know that Katherine knew where the line was from being the jokester to being the leader,” Mitchell said. And Katherine assured her she did, replying, “I’ve got it taken care of.”
With her father as publisher of the weekly Marlow Review in a town 10 miles outside of Duncan, Katherine often jokingly threatened to move away, the coach recalled. As their conversation ended, Mitchell playfully shot back, “Don’t tease me any more about leaving.”
“Her last words to me were, ‘I’ll never leave you, coach.’ And I know she never will,” Mitchell said. “She’ll have that spot on the bench next to me forever.”