McConnell family

Anais McConnell, Amy McConnell and Sandie McConnell stand together Tuesday, August 3, in Amy's front yard. (RED HUBER, ORLANDO SENTINEL)

Anais McConnell woke suddenly at 4:30 a.m. Sunday and realized her husband, Nathan, wasn't in bed beside her.

He, his father and two brothers had left the family's rented vacation home in Redington Beach to catch a late showing of "Predators" in nearby St. Petersburg and should have returned hours ago.

The other men weren't home either. Anais woke her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law's girlfriend.

"Hours passed and we sat on the couch waiting for them to walk through the door," Anais said Tuesday.

Maybe their car had been stolen from the movie theater parking lot and their cell phones were inside. Maybe they were walking back to the rented house and got lost.

Then the early-morning television news flashed images of a deadly car crash in St. Petersburg. Four people were dead. The car was black. No, the women thought.

That can't be our men.

At about 7 a.m., St. Petersburg police officers came to the family's vacation home and delivered the news: The McConnell men — Elroy "Roy" McConnell Jr., 51, and sons Elroy "Roy" McConnell III, 28, Nathan, 24, and Kelly, 19 — were dead, killed by a suspected drunken driver, 20-year-old Demetrius Jordan of St. Petersburg.

Suddenly, the women were widows.

On vacation

The McConnell clan had gathered for a peaceful five-day vacation at the beach. It was the first time they'd all been together since Kelly's University High School graduation in 2009.

The men left for their planned guys' night at the movies after spending a day of "beach fun and family time," family members said Tuesday in a wrenching public appearance at the family home in east Orange County.

They were so looking forward to the vacation that Anais and Nathan were waiting for it to celebrate their fourth anniversary, which was two weeks ago.

"We didn't do anything special, because we knew we had this special family trip planned to celebrate our anniversary, Kelly's birthday and to see our newborn nephew," Anais said, referring to Roy III's son.

On Tuesday, the wives, girlfriend and mothers gathered to talk about the men they loved so much.

Roy Jr.'s wife, Amy Voelker, who was Kelly's mother and helped raise the older boys, said Tuesday that the family is struggling now with inconsolable sadness.

"My husband has a strong faith and part of that was forgiveness," she said. "I hope that we can all get there someday. It would be tragic if we let that young man's decision affect us in a negative way."

'My best friend'

Roy III and his wife, Sandie, fell in love while attending Louisiana College, a private Christian school where Roy played on the football team. They married after three years of dating and lived in New Orleans with their only child, Elroy McConnell IV, who was born in March.