Woman says she forgives the man who fatally shot her husband, father of 5

'Always ready to serve' friend remembers Durham man killed

Brandi Mendenhall talks about the transformation of Felix Morales, who died after being shot on Nov. 29, 2017.
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Brandi Mendenhall talks about the transformation of Felix Morales, who died after being shot on Nov. 29, 2017.

Shelly Morales has already forgiven the man who shot her husband and father of her five children.

“I forgave that boy that night,” Morales said. “I watched him shoot my husband and kill him in front of me. Even though he laughed, I still forgave him.”

Shelly, her husband Felix Morales and her mother had stopped at a convenience store on East Cornwallis Road on Nov. 29, according to friends.

Around 6:20 p.m. officers dispatched to a shooting call found Felix Morales. He had been shot and later died at the hospital.

The shooting took Shelly Morales’ “rock,” she said.

It also snuffed out a bright light at King’s Park International Church in Research Triangle Park, according to interviews.

“I am not exaggerating,” said Dana Williams, a minister at the 1,000-member non-denominational church. “Of all the people that we have had serve in this church, he was the most welcoming, the most outgoing.”

“He did not see people based on their class, their ethnicity,” she said. “He saw people as an opportunity to show love.”

On Wednesday Robert Earl Frye, 29, of Durham was arrested and charged with murdering Morales, according to police.

The shooting does not appear to have been a random incident, they said.

Shelly Morales doesn’t want to interfere with the investigation and said the couple, whose children are 14 to 4 months old, didn’t know the man who shot Felix.

They moved to Durham from New York City in 2005.

In New York, Felix Morales was associated with a gang and running in the streets, said Shelly Morales, who is disabled after a near-fatal car crash in 2011.

When he became a father, he started changing, she said.

“He held me up,” she said. “He loved me. He was an awesome man.”

Felix and Shelley Morales

Joining the church

The biggest change came, she said, when he accepted Jesus Christ into his life.

The couple joined King’s Park in December 2015. They were baptized soon after.

The family connected with the church through volunteer services at a community center in the Cornwallis Road public housing, where the family lived for six years until recently.

Joe Mendenhall of Cary remembers when he first met Felix Morales, who worked in construction, three years ago at a King’s Park Christmas Party. The Morales family was a guest, but Felix started to help serve food.

“He immediately jumped in and started working in the kitchen, working like a short-order cook, pulling dishes and trays out of the ovens without even putting oven mitts on,” Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall tutored at the Cornwallis Road community center, and he would bring Bojangles’ chicken to and visit with the Morales family afterward.

“Felix would sometimes make me blueberry muffins to take home,” Mendenhall said.

In the following years, Felix Morales “grew tremendously in his faith and in his service to his new family and community,” Mendenhall said.

Reggie Roberson, lead pastor at King’s Park, said when the Morales family initially joined the church, Felix said he wanted to be a better father, husband and person.

“Over the three-year period, I actually saw that happen right before my eyes,” he said.

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Thanksgiving turkeys

Felix Morales became an usher at King’s Park. The Morales family continued to serve the Cornwallis Road community, which has about 200 units, by providing food, diapers and other supplies. The Morales family also organized groups of volunteers to work at local homeless shelters or bring food and care kits directly to those living under bridges.

“Even when they had very little themselves, they were always buying and distributing food to their neighbors,” Mendenhall said. “They would also take in homeless people, when they had no more room in their house.”

Before Thanksgiving, Shelly and Felix Morales went to Food Lion and spent their own money on eight turkeys and other food that fed 33 children and parents in the Cornwallis Road community.

About three years ago Felix and Shelly Morales had just finished giving out food in the Cornwallis Road community, and they were sitting and reading the Bible. Felix Morales saw a guy he knew, and he wanted to share some scripture with him. When the family walked up, the man was beating his partner.

He ran up to the guy with his Bible and said “you know Jesus loves you, and he loves her, and you need to stop,” Shelly Morales said.

When the man ran, they saw the gun in his hand, she said.

Later Felix Morales ran into the man, Shelly Morales said, and the man asked him to pray with him.

Roberson said Felix Morales touched about two-thirds of the people who attend the church, so a recent service centered on the grief that followed the shooting. A funeral service for Morales will be held at the church at noon Thursday.

Roberson said Morales’ life offers lessons for everyone.

“To not look down on what we have because we don’t need a lot to love people and make a big impact,” Roberson said. “We could all stand to increase our love for each other and for other people.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges