Hundreds mourn Charlie and Braden Powell at public funeral

Family, teachers, friends and hundreds with no connection to Charlie and Braden Powell remembered the slain boys today in Tacoma, Wash., as brimming with life and full of promise.

An estimated 2,000 people attended a public memorial service at Life Center Church a week after the boys’ father, Josh Powell, murdered them by chopping them across the back of the head and neck before setting the house on fire. All three died of smoke inhalation.
At the memorial service, Rev. Dean Curry told the congregation to think of the boys as “works of art,” not the grim circumstances of their death, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“How we got here is a story well known,” Curry said. “But what we do here and the spirit we do have here is up to us.”

The boys were at the center of a sordid family situation that included the disappearance of their mother, Susan, the arrest of their grandfather for possession of child pornography, and their father’s last, desperate act.

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Despite the surroundings, the boys were wonderful to be around, their teachers said.

Charlie, 7, “was an amazing young man. He had an appreciation of nature I had never seen in someone so young,” said his first-grade teacher, John Huson, the Tribune said. Braden, 5, “had an enthusiasm for life and took pleasure in everything.”

Susan Powell went missing two years ago in Utah, and police said Josh Powell was the only person of interest in the case.

A judge recently placed the boys with their maternal grandparents after police found pornographic images on a computer in the house their father rented in Washington State. Steven Powell, the boys’ paternal grandfather, faces charges in that case, Reuters reported.

A social worker dropped the boys at their father’s house on Sunday for a supervised visit, but Josh Powell quickly shut her out of the house before setting it on fire.

Chuck Cox, Susan’s father, said the family has survived thanks to “support and prayers of people of all faiths.” He told the memorial service that it “helps us to know that there are good people in the world,” the Tribune said.

Members of a local motorcycle club made an appearance at the memorial as an apparent deterrent aimed at the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. The church had promised to protest the funeral, saying Washington’s recent move to legalize same-sex marriages is what led to the boys’ death. 

However, Westboro issued a statement just prior to the service saying its members wouldn’t make an appearance, the Seattle Times said.

More from GlobalPost: Washington man blows up his house, killing his children

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