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Church members remember victim

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Jelena Sriraman Jelena Sriraman
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TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Four-year old Lucas Calvert stopped at Jennifer Deck's office at Southern Oak Baptist Church Tuesday. Ms. Deck, the children's minister, was amid decorations and preparations for Wednesday's annual Fall Block Party on Amherst Drive.

The outgoing young boy asked Ms. Deck what she was doing and after she explained, she asked Lucas if he, his sister Emily, and mother Jelena Sriraman were coming to the event.
"He ran to ask his mother and came running back, ‘We're going to come. We're going to come,'" Ms. Deck said. "He was really excited."

By early Wednesday afternoon however, Mrs. Sriraman was dead, and Lucas had been kidnapped, authorities said by the hand of her ex-husband James Calvert, 41.

Parishioners, still in shock from the violent end to their friend's life, remembered 30-year-old Mrs. Sriraman and prayed for Lucas' safe return as they continued setting up for the party Wednesday.

Children and parents in costumes meandered around the back parking lot where a dunking booth, bounce house and tables full of children's games and pizza sat prepared for a festive atmosphere now left somber.

"I still haven't processed it," Ms. Deck said.

Mrs. Sriraman worked in the nursery at the church and twice a week for its "Mother's Day Out" program. She worked there five years under Ms. Deck, who described her as "outgoing, bubbly, with lots of friends and people that love her."

Ms. Deck said Mrs. Sriraman talked about troubles with her ex-husband in the past, but she hadn't shown any signs of stress or trouble and was focused on her new marriage, going to college, her children and a new life in Houston.

Calvert brought Mrs. Sriraman to America from Croatia. She became a U.S. citizen a few years ago. Ms. Deck said Mrs. Sriraman had "been through a lot" and that Calvert "didn't treat her right" while they were married.

"She was strong," Ms. Deck said. "To have been through so much she always had a smile on her face."

Southern Oaks pastor Larry Craig described Mrs. Sriraman much the same — "lively," "friendly" and "diligent."

Mrs. Sriraman had a "full plate," he said, going to college, raising two children and working for the church. The church allowed her to live in a home it owned close to its campus to help with expenses, he said.

Shannon Cook, a Sunday school teacher who worked with Mrs. Sriraman, said Mrs. Sriraman had a bright future ahead of her.

"She was on the brink of starting over and having a happy life," Ms. Cook said.
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