"Celebration of Life" for 10-year-old killed by his father in a murder-suicide

"Celebration of Life" for 10-year-old killed by his father in a murder-suicide
Zackery Sandifer. Source: WDAM
Source: WDAM
Source: WDAM

PRENTISS, MS (WDAM) - Family, friends and classmates joined together at J.E. Johnson Elementary School Saturday to celebrate the life of 10-year-old Zackery Lee Harvey Sandifer.

Sandifer was shot by his father, Lee Sandifer, while sleeping on a couch around 3 a.m. on May 31st.  His father then went on to fire two shots at his mother, Christine Lewis, before taking his own life.  A bullet grazed Lewis' head, where there are 10 stitches.  Today, she shared her story of the heartbreaking incident.

"I never expected it, it just came as a shock," Lewis said about the shooting.  "I knew me and his dad had been having issues, but I never thought anything like this would happen."

Lewis said Sandifer shot Zackery in the head and then moved through the home to find her.

"I played dead, because I knew he was going to try and shoot me again," Lewis said.  "He wanted to kill me.  He was out to kill his son, he wanted to kill me and then take his own life."

Lewis said she immediately ran to Zack on the couch and put a shirt on his head where the wound was.  She said he was still breathing as her other son called 911.

"I just kept saying to my son, don't you leave me, Zack, don't you leave me."

Zackery was transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson in critical condition and passed a day after the shooting.  Lewis said she knew she wanted to donate Zack's organs if she could, to help others.

"He just held on, he's a strong boy," said Lewis.  "Unfortunately, we couldn't save him, but he held on long enough for him to help save these lives."

Lewis said Zackery has already impacted many lives across the country.  His heart was donated to a five-year-old in North Carolina and his liver was sent to a one-year-old.  Part of Zack's kidneys were donated to an adult in Mississippi and his lungs have been donated for medical research.  Lewis said his eyes and other tissues are in a bank waiting to be needed.

"Even though I cannot hold my baby anymore, he's still alive," Lewis said.  "The fact that he lives on in these people, it gives me a ray of hope... he still lives on, his heart still beats."

Family and friends remembered Zackery Saturday inside the gymnasium at J.E. Johnson Elementary.  "This is not a sad occasion, Zack's life will live on for years to come," Principal Carrie Hammond said.

100 balloons were released following a short ceremony.  The balloons, some with "Donate Life" on the side, to honor Zackery and raise awareness of the importance of what it means to be an organ donor.  A message on the balloon strings read,  "Zackery was a 10-year-old boy who became an angel too soon but was a hero."

Lewis said Zackery needed 10 to 12 units of blood while at UMMC, to stay alive long enough to donate his organs.  She hopes people will hear Zack's story and decide to become donors too.

"If it wasn't for blood donation, they could not have kept my baby alive for him to be an organ donor. It's really important for folks to take that 30 or 40 minutes out of your day to donate blood," Lewis said.

Over 118,000 people across the country are waiting for an organ, with more than 1,400 of them in Mississippi.  For more information on organ, eye and tissue donation, you can go to DonateLife.net.