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Church shooter had history of aggression, threats

Woman who attacked Joel Osteen’s church struggled with mental illness

From left: Police Chief Troy Finner, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen, Mayor John Whitmire, and Fire Department Chief Samuel Pena at Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday Associated Press/Photo by Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle

Church shooter had history of aggression, threats

Editor’s note: In its coverage of mass shootings, WORLD aims to provide our audience with factual reporting without calling undue attention to a person who was possibly seeking glory and fame by committing such a heinous crime. We have decided to report more details about the perpetrator of a recent shooting at Lakewood Church in Houston, to clarify facts that some readers might have found confusing or misleading in earlier reports by multiple news outlets about the shooter’s background and motives.

The woman who opened fire at a Houston megachurch Sunday afternoon led an unstable life marked by crime, mental illness, and a messy divorce from a registered sex offender and struggles with her racial and gender identity, according to local reporting of police and divorce records.

Records also show that 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno used a male name at one point and referred to herself as transgender. But those who knew her say it was part of a desire to be seen as a victim rather than any real discomfort with her gender.

Police say they’re still unclear why Moreno walked into Lakewood Church with her 7-year-old on Sunday afternoon and opened fire before the church’s 2 p.m. Spanish language services. Moreno’s AR-15 rifle had a “Palestine” sticker on it. She was shot dead by off-duty police officers.

Neighbors who lived in the same Conroe, Texas, development with Moreno told a Houston-based Fox station, KRIV-TV, that they warned local police for years about Moreno’s aggressive behavior and threats. Some said they feared for their lives. They described Moreno as an unhinged woman who threatened to kill neighbors and regularly blamed her problems on disrespect toward her race or newfound gender identity.

“At first it was, oh, it’s because I’m transgender,” said a next-door neighbor who identified herself as Jill. “Then it was because we’re Mexican. And then it was because we’re black. And every week depending on what her narrative was for that day, she changed the reason for why you were picking on her.”

Jill said Moreno antagonized the neighborhood, playing loud music, posting swastikas on her window, and flashing guns at passersby. She said Moreno’s Wi-Fi address was “KillJill,” likely referring to the neighbor.

A local TV network published Moreno’s criminal record, which includes felonies and misdemeanors going back to 2005. She has been found guilty of stealing socks and cosmetics from a store, forging a $100 bill, assaulting a detention officer, and evading police.

Court documents show Moreno also used the name Jeffrey Escalante Moreno. Her former husband, and her lawyer both referred to Moreno as Jeffrey.

“She’s utilized both male and female names, but through all of our investigation to this point, talking with individuals, interviews, documents, Houston Police Department reports, she has been identified as female,” Houston police homicide division Commander Chris Hassig said.

In what appears to be Moreno’s LinkedIn profile, she posts the text of an email from her former mother-in-law, which says, “Sir, your client, Jeffrey, as the Court documents call her, uses multiple aliases.” The profile also contained a number of nonsensical posts complaining that certain people accused her of being an undocumented alien. Some of those posts include a link to the LinkedIn profile of Walli Carranza, Moreno’s former mother-in-law.

A local media outlet said divorce court records in 2022 show Carranza requested legal responsibility for Moreno’s son. Carranza said Moreno was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Munchausen by proxy (a mental illness where an adult believes someone they are caring for is ill). She added that Moreno had been investigated by Child Protective Services four times and had stored an unlocked handgun in her son’s diaper bag. Previously, the child was in the custody of Enrique Alberto Carranza III, Moreno’s former husband, a registered sex offender currently incarcerated in Florida.

Responding to the possibility that the shooting was motivated by the Israel-Gaza conflict, Carranza posted a message Monday on Facebook saying she believes Moreno was motivated more by her mental illness than anything else.

“Although my former daughter-in-law raged against Israel and Jews in a pro-Palestinian rant yesterday this has nothing to do with Judaism or Islam. Nothing!” she writes. “But this is what happens when reckless and irresponsible reporting lets people with severe mental illness have an excuse for violence.”

Juliana Chan Erikson

Juliana is a correspondent covering marriage, family, and sexuality as part of WORLD’s Relations beat. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Juliana resides in the Washington, D.C., metro area with her husband and three children.

Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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