Some 500 people raised their hands in prayer during a vigil Sunday night for a 7-year-old disabled boy who was beheaded a week earlier, allegedly by his father.

They also heard Jori Lirette's mother, Jesslyn Lirette, 27, read a letter to her son, The Daily Comet reported (http://bit.ly/oWrkUa).

Jori used a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy and heart problems, and he had limited speech.

"In heaven they say there is no pain, no illness," Lirette said. "People say you're walking up there now, and I believe them. I just can't wait to see it myself."

As she stepped away from the microphone, the crowd burst into applause — and many people wept. Jori's cousins released 50 bright colored balloons that caught the last rays of the sun as they floated above the trees.

As they did, Jesslyn lit a candle and passed its tiny fire onward. The light grew as the flame passed from candle to candle, person to person, until the pavilion at Peltier Park was ringed with lights.

An almost constant stream of people came to honor Jori's memory through the 90-minute vigil, said police spokesman Detective Ricky Ross.

Jori was killed Aug. 14. A passerby saw his head in the yard and called police.

His father, 30-year-old Jeremiah Wright, is being held on $5 million bond, booked with first-degree murder. A grand jury will decide whether to charge Wright, and what charge should be brought.

Jori was killed after his mother, Jesslyn Lirette, told Wright, her longtime boyfriend, that she was kicking him out of their Thibodaux home, according to a sworn police statement. Police say Wright confessed to killing the second grader. He indicated he was tired of taking care of the boy.

Jori's funeral is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Genevieve Catholic Church.

A makeshift memorial that started with one candle and one stuffed animal extends 5 feet beyond each side of the small house where Jori lived with Wright and Lirette. It includes teddy bears, toys, balloons, flowers, and cherry lollipops and bottles of root beer — treats that Lirette said her son particularly enjoyed.