Samantha Runnion Mourned by Thousands
A capacity crowd of more than 4,000 people filled Southern California's Crystal Cathedral, while another 1,000 listened from outside, on Wednesday to remember Samantha Runnion, the little girl who was kidnapped last week and then found dead the next day, reports the Associated Press. The emotionally charged service paid tribute to the child, who would have turned 6 this Friday. "We didn't realize it at the time but Samantha was not just our little girl, she became America's little girl," Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, who headed the search for Samantha's killer, told mourners. (A suspect in the case, Alejandro Avila, 27, who has been charged with kidnapping, murder and sexual assault, is in custody. He denies the charges.) At the service, Samantha's mother, Erin Runnion, shared a slide show of Samantha's artwork, which was accompanied by music from the animated Disney film "Peter Pan." "Nothing can bring our baby back," Erin said, choking back tears. "But knowing that her death was handled with the utmost integrity and her life cherished by so many does bring some solace. We are overwhelmed by the love people have shown Samantha."
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