Emma Watson Nowling took a quick break from soccer practice Thursday night to greet a man walking by the sidelines.
“Little Emma went up and gave the guy a hug,” Emma’s soccer coach, Mario Scicluna, said.
Later that night, that man, Timothy Nelson Obeshaw, shot 7-year-old Emma and her mother, 37-year-old Sharon Elizabeth Watson, in the parking lot of the Taylor Sportsplex before turning his 9mm pistol on himself, according to Taylor police. Authorities described Obeshaw as a family friend.
Emma died from her injuries. Watson is in serious condition at a local hospital, police said.
Police said family members described the 57-year-old Obeshaw — who had lived with Watson and her boyfriend at their home in Belleville before recently moving to a home in Taylor — as mentally unstable. A motive, though, remains unclear, according to police.
“Police found evidence that Obeshaw believed someone was trying to perform mind control on him,” according to a news release from the Taylor Police Department.
Police said the girl and her mother were at the Sportsplex for soccer practice. Obeshaw was there, too, and “there was what appeared to be friendly interaction between the three at the start of practice,” the release says.
Scicluna said Obeshaw had attended Emma’s games before. Obeshaw arrived about 15 minutes after practice started at 6:30 p.m., Scicluna said.
“As he was walking by the sidelines, (Emma) went up and gave him a big hug and went back to her training,” he said.
Scicluna didn’t notice any signs of trouble. But as the mother and daughter were preparing to leave just before 8 p.m., Obeshaw, who had registered the handgun in his name in Belleville in September, shot them in their vehicle, then killed himself, police said. The gun was recovered, according to police.
Scicluna said he learned something was wrong when he saw “the panicked looked on some of the parents running the other way,” and the flashing lights of police cars. About 40 children were at practice that night.
“A lot of the families are in shock and were traumatized by what happened,” he said.
Scicluna said he had been coaching Emma, who plays as part of the Waza F.C. soccer club, for about two months. She was always smiling, he said.
“She was a fun, excited girl,” he said. “As time went on, she developed her soccer skills very rapidly, and was showing a lot of enthusiasm for the game. She had a bright future ahead of her.”
Scicluna is starting a GoFundMe page to raise money for Emma’s family.
He said players will honor her with a moment of silence at soccer games this weekend.