Three hearses were parked outside New Hope Baptist Church on Friday, waiting to bring the bodies of a mother and her two children to be buried at Resthaven Memorial Park in New Orleans East.
The grim procession was the result of a shocking and still-unsolved triple homicide two weeks ago inside a home on a quiet block in Gentilly.
“I just can't believe we are attending another funeral for a family," said Monique Cook, who didn’t know the family but went to the funeral to pay her respects.
Monique Smith and her two sons, 10-year-old Justin Simms, Jr., and 6-year-old JuMyrin Smith, were gunned down inside their home in the 4200 block of Touro Street Monique Smith’s 12-year-old daughter was also badly wounded but survived the shooting.
Police have yet to identify a suspect or motive.
Friends and relatives who entered the church for the funeral said the sight of three caskets near the altar was too much to bear.
“It was unbelievable, and I’ve never been to a funeral like that,” said Reggie Armwood, a relative. “Three people at the same time – it’s tragic.”
Cook called the loss of two children and the injuring of a third “horrible and disheartening."
“I can’t believe someone would actually murder anyone, but children? I mean, this is awful,” she said.
Monique Smith’s injured daughter, A'Miya, has remained “very strong,” those who know her said.
“I told her the other day she’s my hero,” said Qutrelia Scott, Monique Smith’s aunt. “She’s the family’s hero.”
Those who knew Monique Smith described her as a loving mother and outgoing, friendly personality who worked hard as a cook at Ted’s Frostop Diner to support her children.
Her kids were equally beloved at Samuel J. Green Charter School in Uptown, where they were known as good students. Teachers knew something was wrong when the children failed to show up to a school assembly to receive perfect-attendance awards.
Speaking inside the packed church Friday morning, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said detectives have worked around the clock to try to find the gunman.
“You should never have to bury a child, especially when somebody just takes them away,” Armwood said. “They are supposed to enjoy their life all the way.”