HOUSTON — Mourners of all ages filled a Houston church Tuesday afternoon to pay last respects to a little boy whose tragic death galvanized a community.
The funeral service for 12-year-old Jonathan Foster took place at Garden Oaks Baptist Church, the same place volunteers gathered to search for the boy who vanished from his home on Christmas Eve.
Foster’s body was set on fire and dumped in a ditch a few days after his disappearance.
Authorities have charged Mona Nelson with capital murder.
The 44-year-old grandmother of five was seen on surveillance video dumping Jonathan’s body in a ditch, according to police.
The motive remains a mystery.
“Jonathan was more like a son,” said Glenn Scrimsher, Jonathan’s uncle who helped raise him. “He caught his first fish with me. He went hunting for the first time with me. He loved the outdoors.”
Scrimsher said Jonathan also loved to ride his bike and play baseball.
Jonathan’s grandmother remembered his kind spirit.
“When he loved you, he loved you. He didn’t care if you had to ground him because he didn’t do his homework or whatever the case might be. That was just him,” said Mary Gifford.
Jonathan’s mother and stepdad were in attendance. Both said they were too broken up to speak.
But one of the slain boy’s classmates, who joined with other kids at the service, contemplated a question that continues to baffle investigators.
“I can’t understand why they would hurt such a boy,” said Victoria Pallares, who attends Durham Elementary School near Garden Oaks.
“Why” was never answered during the service. Instead people hugged one another and wiped away tears while a song entitled “Temporary Home” played beneath a stirring musical tribute.
Some of Jonathan’s relatives said they regretted the moment he returned to his mother’s home to live.
“We all have guilt,” said Jonathan’s grandmother. “Why weren’t we able to save this little boy?”
Jonathan was cremated. An urn containing his ashes sat next to his picture. It was the final image of a life that ended far too soon.