EXCLUSIVE: Uncle says McDonald family stands behind teen charged with killing parents

EXCLUSIVE: Uncle says McDonald family stands behind teen charged with killing parents

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - Relatives stand united behind capital murder suspect James Gabriel "Gabe" McDonald, 17, his uncle said Monday in an exclusive interview with NewsWest 9.

The Odessa teen was arrested Wednesday after allegedly shooting and killing his parents, Gregg and Jana McDonald, according to authorities.

The couple "will never be forgotten by the many people whose lives they touched," said Matt McDonald, one of Gregg's two younger brothers.

"[Gregg] was just a wonderful person, inside and out," he said, blinking back tears. "I was very close to my older brother. He was very protective of me."

Matt said their nine-year age gap created a unique bond he felt "blessed" to have.

Gregg wielded the authority to "set him straight, when needed," he said with a laugh, but maintained a brotherly playfulness with his younger siblings.

"He was almost perfect," said Matt. "Only because you can't be completely perfect."

Gregg's loving nature caught the eye of a classmate - his future wife - during high school. He and Jana Lou Wootton began dating in eleventh grade and attended junior prom together.

The high school sweethearts later separated during college, much to the dismay of Jana's father, Monte. He constantly asked about "the ex," Matt said, and attempted to reunite the two.

"[Jana's father] loved Gregg," he explained, smiling at the memory. "Jana was actually dating somebody through college. Monte would call Gregg to come to the lake and Jana would get so mad at her father."

The two eventually got back together, tied the knot and dedicated their lives to serving the community and their children, 23-year-old daughter Grace and 17-year-old son Gabe.

Gregg worked for 30 years as a prominent Odessa-based banker. Jana volunteered at rehabilitation centers, women's shelters and other venues throughout the Permian Basin.

The two were also an "integral part of [the] spiritual family" at Midland's Mid-Cities Church, community leaders said.

They took every opportunity to support Grace's love of horses, Matt said, as well as Gabe's enthusiasm for aviation, handiwork and fishing.

There was "absolutely no indication" the 17-year-old could become violent, according to his uncle.

"We don't feel that it's real," said Matt. "It's almost like a bad dream."

Gabe admitted to the crime, according to Odessa Police, but no clear motive has been identified by investigators or relatives.

"We still don't know what really happened," said Matt. "But we love [Gabe]. Our hearts are breaking but [he] is with us. We think about [him] every day. We will not [leave him]... That is what Gregg and Jana would have done, and that is what our family will do as well. He is loved immensely."

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