SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Standing behind the six white coffins of Leticia Aguilar and her five children, the Rev. Cary Gordon told hundreds of mourners Tuesday that they must forgive.
"There are reasons to be angry this morning, but there are greater reasons to forgive," said Gordon, pastor of the Cornerstone Faith Center.
About 700 people crowded into the church for the funeral of Aguilar and her children, ages 6 to 12, who were found slain in their home Thursday. Authorities said the children were bludgeoned with a hammer and their mother was attacked with a hammer and knife.
Aguilar's boyfriend, Adam Moss, 23, has been jailed on suspicion of murder in the six deaths and that of businessman Ron Fish, whose body was also found Thursday. Fish was attacked with a hammer and knife.
Formal charges were still pending. Authorities have not given a possible motive for the killings.
Fish was buried Monday after a private ceremony at Congregation Beth Shalom.
"Bitterness and unforgiveness is Adam Moss' last weapon," Gordon said at Tuesday's service. "He has this over us, from his jail cell, and he's inflicting it into our hearts. The only defense is forgiveness."
Gordon played two videotapes. The first was of Sunday's service for children, in which he explained that Aguilar's children had gone to heaven, and the second was of the Aguilar children — Claudia, 12; Zach, 11; Larry, 9; Lisa, 7; and Michael, 6 — attending previous church events.
An 11-year-old neighbor, Liz Shafer, sat sobbing with a group of girls. "They are in a better place," she said.
Trudy Faulk, who brought Shafer and other girls from the neighborhood to the service, said the deaths had been hard on the children.
"When it's your friends, and you are in the neighborhood, it's tough," she said. "They don't even want to go to school."
Among the mourners were two of Aguilar's sisters, Yolanda Garcia, 25, and Virginia Quiroz, 34. They said the bodies of their sister and nieces and nephews will be taken to Merced, Calif., for burial on Friday.
"I want everyone to know my sister was loved," Quiroz said.
She said her sister was a good mother who worked hard and made her own way in life. She didn't take handouts and she made sure her children lived in a clean home, went to church and went to school, Quiroz said.
Garcia said she had gone to the house Thursday evening with Donna Stabile, the baby sitter who found the bodies, and that Stabile forced her out of the house.
"She saw most of it," Garcia said. "I didn't think they were dead. I said 'What did you see?' and she said, 'They're gone."'