Updated:CANTON, Ga.,None —
A community united by the search for a missing 7-year-old and stunned by her horrific killing gathered one last time to remember the life of Jorelys Rivera in a somber service that drew hundreds to a Cherokee County church on Saturday.
A private family service for Rivera took place at Darby Funeral Home before the public gathering at First Baptist Church in Canton. Mourners packed the church for the service that ended with the release of doves, Channel 2’s Carl Willis reported.
Pallbearers wore white t-shirts with Rivera's picture on them as they escorted the casket out of the church. The Rivera family planned to fly the girl’s body back to Puerto Rico for burial.
"It was really touching and beautiful. Everyone was just full of support and love for her and I think the most important part of the ceremony was just to understand that her life was not in vain", said Veronia Best, a friend of the family. Best said a dove was given to family members of Rivera and released, a symbol that "she was leaving and she would live forever" Best said.
The funeral followed a large candlelight vigil on Friday night that brought hundreds of community members together to march from a park to the funeral home. Adults and children wrote notes of sympathy and support on a large board that will hang in Rivera’s elementary school.
- SPECIAL SECTION: The Murder of Jorelys Rivera
- GALLERY: Vigil and visitation for Jorelys Rivera
- AJC.com: Questions linger over police search
"It's been tough over the last couple days with the candlelight vigil last night and viewing, it's really hard on everybody, especially those with children," Canton resident Chris Kerby said. "As a father of three, I can't imagine what they are going through. It's difficult at best and we're here to support them.
Police said Rivera was abducted by Ryan Brunn, a maintenance worker at the River Ridge Apartments on Dec.2. Brunn took Rivera to a vacant apartment where he bound, gagged, raped and stabbed her before dumping the body in a Dumpster and running the compactor, according to authorities. Brunn, 20, has no prior police record