Forgiveness was the main message Saturday to the more than 300 family, friends and co-workers who gathered to mourn the killings of a 21-year-old mother and her son, who would have turned 2 this past Friday.
"They are gone, so we cry," Pastor Walter C. Willie Jr. said during the funeral for Shakeela L. Planter and her son, Jaiden, at Prayer Tabernacle Church of God In Christ in Amityville. "It's OK to cry."
Authorities believe Planter and her son were killed early Dec. 18 in their North Bay Shore apartment, sometime after her shift as a nursing assistant at Huntington Hospital.
Her former boyfriend, Jerry A. Lewis, 24, is accused of stabbing her several times and killing Jaiden, whose body was found in a freezer.
Lewis, who shared the same South Cardinal Court apartment off and on, faces second-degree murder charges. He is scheduled for an extradition hearing Jan. 27 in Maryland, where authorities say he fled after the killings and surrendered.
"We ask ourselves, why did this happen? How could this happen? Who do we blame? . . . The culprit in this is the devil," said Willie, as he preached forgiveness. "This tragedy is hurting like crazy, but you have to put it in the hands of God."
Shakeela Planter, who was originally from Jamaica, had been in the country since 2009, her family said.
Her parents, identified by the funeral home as Jean Pamela and Winston Planter, sister Yandean, brother Raheem and her grandparents cried and embraced during the service.
"She [Planter] was calm, quiet and loving," said her cousin Camille Planter-James, who read the obituary. "He [Jaiden] warmed the heart of everyone who met him."
Shakeela Planter lay in a dark brown wood coffin, her son, wearing a New York Giants cap, nearby in a miniature white coffin.
"I am here to say to you guys that I miss you very much," Gavin Campbell, Planter's cousin, said during the ceremony. "I will miss looking into your bright eyes."
The mother and her toddler were buried in the Amityville Cemetery, where one woman fainted as others carried her away. Other mourners tossed lilac roses into the shared grave.
Friend Monique Allen, of Amityville, who silently wept at the burial, said she knew Planter and her son for the boy's entire life. "He was a sweetheart," she said, wiping away tears. "I called him my little boyfriend. . . . He meant the world to her [Planter]."