PHOENIX - A private memorial service was held at St. Joseph's Hospital on Thursday morning for a Valley mother and her two children who were shot and killed on Christmas Day.
The family of Iris, 10-month-old baby Anora, and 11-year-old Nigel Ross met with her co-workers for the first time in an emotional and tearful ceremony, dedicated to remembering the hospital administrator, who managed St. Joe’s Outpatient Surgery Center.
Mary Wojas, Iris's sister, spoke at the memorial service and told ABC15 she wanted her sister to be remembered for the "bright light" she was.
"She was cherished and loved for the good work she did. She was such a bright light and a gentle soul, a kind soul," said Wojas.
She said her sister had been a great mother who wanted to co-parent her children with her ex-husband, shooting suspect Anthony Milan Ross.
"As much as I want to be despaired and angry, I do not want Christmas Day which is about love, and family and celebration to be marked with such an evil act by such a horrible, horrible man," said Wojas.
She added that she had not liked him from the beginning.
"Milan" as the family knew him was a well-known motivational speaker who had a national audience. He was an author and a big advocate of the vegan lifestyle, and had a huge fan following his huge weight loss success story which he shared with his Facebook audience.
"That was just the public face. The man is so dark and twisted, I believe this was a pre-meditated act," said Wojas.
Family members and friends have said Ross had threatened Iris in the days preceding the shooting, saying Christmas Day or 2018 would be one she never forgot. He had also threatened to take away what she loved most, her children, according to Wojas.
The couple had been together for about 15 years and got divorced six months ago, in June.
Since the divorce, friends have said Ross appeared depressed and wanted to bring their family unit back together.
Wojas said she had warned Iris about her bad feelings before they got married.
"Unbeknownst to my sister, he had a previous marriage and children. He walked out on them and abandoned them to be with my sister and my sister didn't know. Nobody knew. They finally reached out to Milan and my sister, saying we just wanted to know if you're okay you just disappeared. His wife had to get an absentee divorce. He just walked out and walked away who does that to their children? How do you know he's not going to do the same thing to you? Little did I know, it would be much, much worse," said Wojas.
Laura Sutherland, another sister of Iris Ross says she could not understand how Ross could allegedly shoot his children, then stay in the apartment with them during the police standoff that lasted for 7-hours.
"Who does that? Who can, who can kill their children and have them in a room. My thoughts? That isn't a human being, and that isn't anybody that deserves to be on this earth," said Sutherland.
The family is planning to hold a public memorial service this weekend. ABC15 Arizona will post the details as soon as they are finalized.