A funeral was held Sunday locally for two young girls with Pulaski County ties who were murdered by their father last week in Tennessee.

Brionna Elizabeth Howard, who would have turned 3 years old in September, and Markala Annette Howard, 2, were found dead in their father’s car last Thursday near Oak Ridge, Tenn. The girls’ father, former University of Tennessee and Carson-Newman football player Richard Alfonso Howard, 32, was found slumped over the wheel, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The girls’ mother, Amanda Walters of Clarksville, Tenn., is a Pulaski County native. The children were the granddaughters of Alan and Rose Walters of Nancy.

“I loved my daughters very much,” Amanda Walters said in a statement issued by Richard New of Lake Cumberland Funeral Home. “I know they are with Jesus now.”

Howard apparently shot himself Thursday after a Tennessee Valley Authority police officer approached him as he sat in his car at the Bull Run fossil plant near Oak Ridge.

The officer asked Howard why he was there, and he responded that he had run out of gas and was waiting for someone to bring him gas or money to buy it, TVA police spokesman Jim Carver said.

The officer checked Howard's license tag and found Howard was wanted on rape charges in Clarksville. When the officer returned to Howard's car he found Howard slumped over the steering wheel. Officers later discovered the daughters' bodies in a plastic container in the backseat.

Howard had also been charged with domestic violence against Amanda Walters on two occasions, according to Clarksville, Tenn. authorities.

WVLT-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., reported Amanda Walters said she and Howard were not legally divorced, and her daughters often stayed with Howard in Oak Ridge because more family was there.

Howard had been living in Clarksville until sometime last year when he moved back to Oak Ridge with his daughters. Amanda Walters remained in Clarksville, authorities said.

New said yesterday authorities in Tennessee had not yet disclosed when the girls died or how they were killed.

Howard indicated in a handwritten suicide note found in his car that he killed the girls, according to authorities.

"The note that he left is somewhat self-explanatory as to why he committed these crimes," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agent Bob Denney said.

Officials said they have no plans to release the note because it is part of their investigation.

Howard was indicted in November on rape charges stemming from an incident in July with a 15-year-old girl who was a baby sitter, Clarksville Police Depart-ment Det. Vincent Lewis said. Howard was notified of the indictment but was not arrested because he had already left Clarksville, Lewis said.

Lewis said the girl accused Howard of picking her up for a baby-sitting job but instead taking her to a hotel and forcing her to have sex. Howard denied the allegations, Lewis said.

The incident shocked the Oak Ridge, Tenn., comminity, where Howard was an All-State offensive lineman. In 1991, he was named Tennessee’s prep Lineman of the Year as he led Oak Ridge High School to a state title.

Howard played at UT from 1993-1995, then transferred to Carson-Newman in 1996. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens of the National Fotball League for a brief period as a free agent in 1997.

Several teammates called Howard a "gentle giant," and the best offensive lineman they had ever seen at Oak Ridge.

"He was such a generous person with good support structure," Oak Ridge football announcer David Clary said. "I would have never thought in my wildest dreams I would be reading or seeing Richard Howard doing this. He was such a nice and quiet guy."

Clary had seen Howard with his daughters at football games.

"Even if you have your own problems you've got these two beautiful kids with their whole lives in front of them," Clary said. "Why take these kids? I just don't understand it."

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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