One by one, they added to the growing memorial.
A little girl lay down a bouquet of flowers. A family brought balloons. Others came with candles, stuffed animals and handmade cards.
About 50 people gathered Sunday night at Carson Elementary School in Puyallup for a vigil to remember Charlie and Braden Powell. Charlie was in first grade at the school. Braden had yet to start school.
They told stories about the boys, shed tears and hugged. A pastor led the group in a prayer and the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
“In difficult times it helps to come together,” said the pastor, Jesse Lowery, of Puyallup Foursquare Church.
Kristi Murray brought her children. Her daughter Brooklyn, 6, was in Charlie’s class. The two were good friends.
Brooklyn was sad and didn’t feel like talking to a reporter about her classmate. But her mom described Charlie as a sweet boy who like school.
Murray volunteers in the classroom and recently helped the first-graders make valentines.
The red paint stained Charlie’s hands, and he asked to use a different kind next time, Murray said.
“It was really cute. He was so concerned,” she said, pausing to wipe tears from her eyes. Murray said she struggled to explain what happened to the Powell boys to her children.
“It makes you hug your kids closer,” she said.
In Kearns, Utah, about 50 people also gathered for a vigil at Oquirrh Hills Elementary School. One woman in the crowd, Cheyenne Miller, said she didn’t know Susan Cox Powell or her sons, but followed the case of Susan’s disappearance.
“Whenever a child dies a violent death and an early death, every child has a right to have somebody come out and remember them for who they were and who they should have been allowed to be,” she said.
In Puyallup, Jess Liebentritt stood near the flickering candles. The Tacoma woman didn’t know the Powell boys, but grew up with Susan Powell and was in touch with her sister, Denise Cox.
Liebentritt said she’d bought Christmas gifts for the Powell boys, but hadn’t yet been able to get them to Denise.
“They’re still sitting on my washer,” Liebentritt said.
She said her heart breaks for her friend’s family.
“They don’t know where their daughter is and now...” she said, her voice trailing off. “How much do they have to take? We’re holding them in our hearts.”
The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this report.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058 firstname.lastname@example.org/street