Weeping mourners released brightly colored balloons into the sky outside a somber Mississippi memorial service for five children allegedly murdered by their father. The slain kids were remembered for the simple joys in their lives — from dressing up to playing with blocks. "They all loved wrestling," Associate Pastor Derrick Maranto told about 150 people who filled the pews at the Church of Christ in Amory. "They loved going to the park and swimming. They loved chocolate cookies."
Wreaths surrounding photos of each of the children — Elaine, 1, Gabriel, 2, Nahtahn, 6, Elias, 7, and Merah, 8 — were placed at the front of the church. Maranto urged family members to keep memories of the victims in their hearts "and continue to watch them as they continue to play in heaven."
The gathering was organized by the Mississippi-based family of Timothy Ray Jones Jr., who is charged with killing the kids at his South Carolina home and then dumping their bodies in Alabama. His father has insisted that his son was "not a monster" and could not have been in his right mind to harm the children, although state records show he was twice investigated for abuse since May.
"None of us are immune to something like this happening," Amory Mayor Brad Blalock said.
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