Nathan and Krystal Maddox

Nathan "Brad" and Krystal Maddox

TYLER COUNTY — At a time when church-goers should have filled the parking lot of Mount Carmel Baptist Church near Colmesneil on Sunday morning, it was blocked by crime scene tape as Tyler County investigators continued studying clues in the Saturday murders of a Zavalla couple.

Nathan Maddox, 35, and Krystal Maddox, 30, were at the church, in a secluded area roughly 11 miles off U.S. Highway 69 south, for a supervised visit with his 4-year-old daughter Madison from a previous marriage when the incident occurred.

Nathan "Brad" Maddox had spent the last several months in a custody battle with his ex-wife's parent's for visitation of the girl. He chronicled his custody battle on a Give Forward support page titled “Help Me Save My Daughter.” On the website he claimed his fight began in 2011 after his ex-wife denied him visitation with Madison for nine months and then abandoned her with his ex-wife's parents.

“There is nothing in this world like having your child taken from you,” he wrote. “I thank God everyday that there is a chance I'll see her; a chance that she may know her 'Dada' loves her. Each and everyday without her is a struggle that has taken a piece of me. Everyday without her I lose another piece of me.”

Nathan Maddox's ex-wife is out on bond in Tyler County, charged with methamphetamine delivery and possession, and has also been involved with counterfeit money, according to his attorney, Ryan Deaton.

Last month Nathan Maddox was awarded a series of visits that would have likely led to full custody of Madison, Deaton said.

“This was going to be their last visitation at the church, and the next step would have been bringing her to Angelina County for the day, then overnight. After that, they would have moved to standard visitation,” Deaton said, adding that there was “no question” Nathan Maddox was going to get custody of the girl.

On Saturday morning, Nathan and Krystal Maddox had been visiting with Madison since 9 a.m. in the presence of her maternal grandmother and a neutral third party, as ordered by the court, when the couple walked outside alone, preparing to leave, according to Nathan Maddox's sister, Hannah Ogden.

At 12:25 p.m., a 911 call was made to the Tyler County Sheriff's Office of shots fired with one person down. When deputies arrived, they found the couple dead on the church lawn. Sheriff Bryan Weatherford would not specify the type of gun used or where the man and woman had been hit. He said a murder/suicide scenario was quickly ruled out. He said there were no witnesses to the crime as everyone, Madison included, was inside the church at the time.

Autopsies on the two shooting victims were scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday in Beaumont.

“From the sheriff's standpoint, it is just a tragedy in what you call a small community,” Weatherford said. “In this area of the county, it is a small, tight-knit group. Everybody knows everybody.”

According to a family friend, Krystal and Nathan Maddox had been married a little more than a year. Between them, the friend said, the husband and wife leave behind five children.

As her heart breaks at the loss of her brother and his wife, Ogden said she is staying hopeful that justice will soon be served.

“It's so senseless and crazy. I don't even know what to say now except pray for my family who is left with all the pain,” she said. “If you didn't know Nathan or Krystal, then you will never know how amazing they were. All they wanted was to get that baby in a safe place. He died fighting for his baby girl.”

Anyone with information in the double-murder is asked to contact the Tyler County Sheriff's Office at (409) 283-2172.

Jessica Cooley's email address is jcooley@lufkindailynews.com.