Following tragedy, Barry family remembered, celebrated at vigil
With holiday lights, friends and neighbors honor the lost Duluth family of four.
DULUTH — Colorful Christmas lights bathed the scene, as a throng of friends, family and neighbors gathered in front of the Barry home in the city's East Hillside neighborhood Sunday evening, seeking solace in their fond memories of the tight-knit family of four.
Riana Lou Barry, 44, and Sean Christopher Barry, 47, were found shot to death in their home, along with their daughters, Sadie Lucille Barry, 9, and Shiway Elizabeth Barry, 12, on Wednesday afternoon as Duluth police responded to a welfare check.
At the address, 1715 E. 12th St., officers also found the body of Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad, 29, alongside a 9-millimeter handgun that police believe he used to kill his aunt, uncle, their children and the family dog before turning the weapon on himself.
While stunned friends and neighbors are still reeling from the loss, they took time Sunday to recall the friendly and community-minded family, gathering around the Barrys' Little Free Library festooned with holiday lights and flowers.
Besides their well-known passion for reading, the Barrys were also known for enthusiastically decorating their home for the holidays each year. Event organizers decided lighting up the property would be an appropriate way to honor the family's memory.
Vicky Danielson, Riana Barry’s mother, made the 4½-hour drive from her home in Sunburg, Minnesota, to Duluth to witness the vigil along with other family members. She said Riana first met Sean at a bar in Anchorage, while she was working for AmeriCorps and he was working the North Slope oil fields. They corresponded for a year before a 3,500-mile road trip in a VW bus cemented their relationship. By the end, Danielson said the vehicle couldn’t make it out of third gear.
Danielson said her 9-year-old granddaughter, Sadie, was “as precocious as they come,” and she referred to12-year-old Shiway as “more of the deep thinker.”
Brad Danielson, Riana’s uncle, said: “Those little girls were just fantastic. They were so outgoing and smiley and one-of-a-kind, both of them.” He said it was moving to see the community support for the family as vigil attendees filled most of the city block, with the street closed to traffic for the event.
Girl Scout leader Mary Hoffman said the Barry girls and their mother were key members of Troop 4022, heading up the annual cookie drive with good cheer and aplomb.
“They were the kind of people that make the world a better place. They were just so full of life,” she said.
Hoffman said she formed an almost-instant friendship with Riana, saying Barry was always willing to step up and help as needed. “We were really close, like family.”
Jason Erickson was a family friend who grew up with Rianna.
“She was never one to complain about anything," he said. "She always looked at the positive side of things, and you can learn a lot from that.”
A number of participants in Sunday night's vigil came bearing new children's books to be donated to the Duluth Public Library in the family's honor.
Bryan Jasperson and his wife, Kate, attended the vigil to show their support even though they didn’t personally know the Barrys.
“It’s just gut-wrenching. It’s hard to imagine such a terrible event happening in your own neighborhood. Processing it is tough,” he said. “But it’s uplifting to see the amount of support and love here.”
Police Chaplain Father John Petrich said: “When we hold up our candles, we dispel the darkness of this tragedy. When we hold up our candles, the evil of darkness will not overwhelm us.
“Dear God, we gather this night, not because we are afraid but because we know great love, love shared with the very family, love shared by the community of Duluth, by the neighborhood here on 12th Street — a love that will not be conquered,” he said. “We keep in our hearts their story, their love, their legacy. And we ask you to help us be stronger to withstand anything that might come our way, because together, we make a difference. And together, nothing bad, no tragedy will conquer us.”