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October 21, 2014

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J.K. Rowling writes to girl whose family was slain

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Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer / AP

Cassidy Stay, second from right, the lone survivor of a family massacre in Texas, wipes her eye during a community memorial at Lemm Elementary School on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Spring, Texas.

Click to enlarge photo

In this Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, file photo, British author J.K. Rowling poses for photographers at the Southbank Centre in London.

HOUSTON — A Texas girl who survived a recent attack in which her parents and four siblings were killed has drawn the attention of "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling.

Rowling's publicist, Rebecca Salt, confirmed Friday that the British writer sent a letter and package to 15-year-old Cassidy Stay, but she declined to describe their contents, saying it was a private matter. Rowling spokesman Mark Hutchinson also said the gesture "and how it came about are private and between her and Cassidy."

"We're not commenting any further on the letter or what it contained," he said.

Cassidy was the only member of her immediate family to survive the July 9 attack at their home in the Houston suburb of Spring. Despite a gunshot wound to her head, she spoke a few days later at a public gathering at a neighborhood school and paraphrased a quote by Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the "Harry Potter" series.

"Happiness can be found even in darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light," Stay said.

The Stays were Mormons. Christopher Cunningham, who runs lds.net, a Houston-based Mormon community website not officially affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he spoke with a member of Cassidy's extended family who was there when Rowling's letter was opened.

"Parts of the letter were written in the voice of Dumbledore," Cunningham said.

Cassidy survived by playing dead as her parents and four younger siblings — Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 6, and Zach, 4 — were gunned down. She then called police and identified the gunman as her aunt's ex-husband, Ronald Lee Haskell.

Haskell now is facing multiple capital murder charges for the shootings.

Prosecutors say Haskell tied up the family and put them face-down on the floor before shooting each in the back of the head after they refused to tell him the whereabouts of his ex-wife. According to family friends, Cassidy's mother went to Utah last year to help her sister escape from her relationship with Haskell. They divorced earlier this year.

Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in London contributed to this story.

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