A service for three-year-old Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney, who was suffocated to death the day she was abducted from a birthday party in Alabama two weeks ago, has taken place in Birmingham.
Social media images for what loved ones opted to call a celebration of life rather than a funeral, showed New Beginning Christian Ministry covered in flowers, including a giant wreath in the shape of the snack she is nicknamed after.
Pastor Sylvester Wilson welcomed everyone to the church’s 700-seat sanctuary, and its fellowship hall, which acted as an overflow auditorium, as Kamille’s picture was splashed above a reading of the Psalm 23 Holy Bible chapter and ‘Rest In Heaven Cupcake’ written across a sash.
Patrick Devone Stallworth, 39, and his girlfriend Derick Irisha Brown, 29, were both charged on Thursday with capital murder over the little girl’s death.
A community member who drove the search for Kamille told church-goers how the girl’s devastated mother messaged him Friday around 2am, unable to sleep as she thought through what she did wrong.
‘When everybody is sleeping at night, it’ll be the hardest part of my day, not holding her and thinking about what I could’ve changed to keep this from happening,’ the speaker said about the exchange with April Thomas.
‘I tried so hard to be a good mother but it feels like the devil defeated me and took a big chunk out of my heart. And there’s nothing I can do. A few minutes turned into a lifetime of hell.’
On Sunday, the family wore buttons featuring her face, ABC 3340 reported, and the service began with an upbeat yet moving gospel song that attendees danced and clapped along to.
An emotional call and response followed in a subsequent tune that prompted some to cry out and cheer as they remembered the short life of the little girl.
Mourners had lined up outside after Pastor Sylvester predicted, ‘I already know that our church is nowhere big enough to hold this crowd.’
The girl’s white casket was seen being rolled out of a vehicle and into the building where a harpist played music and a stage was covered in flowers, pink and purple balloons, toys and a pink dress.
The city had announced a website for anyone who wants to make donations to help pay the child’s funeral and burial expenses.
More than $12,000 has been given and organizers said any leftover money will go to nonprofits that help at-risk people.
Also, Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama said it was establishing a permanent reward fund in the girl’s name to help in future child abductions.
The group said it had received more than $35,000 in donations linked to the girl’s disappearance.
‘There is no silver lining in the Cupcake tragedy,’ Frank Barefield, chairman of the organization’s board, said in a statement.
‘However, we are deeply moved by the public’s generosity during the investigation of her kidnapping. We hope the memory of Cupcake is somehow kept alive not only in our community, but also in the generosity of these donors.’
— Soni Halmon (@Sonihalmon) October 26, 2019
Various tributes were made to Cupcake this weekend, including the Alabama A&M band honoring her by spelling out her nickname on the field at the Magic City Classic.
A barber also cut Kamille’s 11-year-old brother, Amaree Thomas’s hair with the design of a cupcake.
‘I was honored to be called to cut this young man hair which is cupcakes’ big brother. I was hand picked by Mayor Randall Woodfin to make this cut happen,’ Jonathan Lee, Master Barber at Gifted Touch, posted on Facebook.
‘This is the toughest haircut I’ve ever had to do. Looking at this lil guy face knowing that he’ll never see his sister again and will face the rest of his life growing up without her is devastating.
‘Let’s keep this family up in prayer and continue to lift their spirits at a tragic time like this.’
Kamille, who was known to her relatives as Cupcake, died the same day she went missing from a birthday party in Birmingham on October 12.
Investigators said they suspected Stallworth and Brown within 24 hours of Kamille’s abduction.
Authorities announced on Tuesday their intent to charge the pair soon after they recovered the toddler’s body.
The toddler’s father, Dominic McKinney, had told AL.com that he was relieved the suspect had been caught but would not rest until his daughter was found safe.
Police found her body in a dumpster at a county landfill 10 days after the disappearance and after a widespread search for the little girl was launched.
During an initial court hearing for the two suspects on Friday morning, authorities revealed Kamille’s cause of death was asphyxiation.
Both suspects were in court for the brief appearance during which the judge asked if they both understood the capital murder charge.
Stallworth told the judge he didn’t understand why he had been charged with the slaying ‘of this child’.
Attorneys for both Stallworth and Brown have said they weren’t involved in the child’s death.
Capital murder carries a possible death penalty.
Both Stallworth and Brown had been arrested last week on unrelated charges after being named persons of interests in Kamille’s disappearance.
Stallworth was charged with seven counts of possession of child pornography after investigators found multiple photos on his phone – none of which featured Kamille.
Brown was charged with violating probation conditions from a previous kidnapping case involving her own children. She was held without bond.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said investigators have not determined any links between the suspects and Kamille or her family.
‘We believe that this was something they thought about and acted upon and they saw an opportunity to take a young child, and they did,’ Woodfin said prior to the charges being filed.
Prior to the discovery of Kamille’s body, police had been offering a $28,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Leah Simpson