ORLANDO, Fla. – Four children who were killed during a nearly daylong hostage situation that began at an Orlando apartment complex the night of June 10 were honored and remembered during a joint funeral Saturday afternoon.
Mourners gathered at St. James Catholic Cathedral Church beginning at noon to attend the hour-long ceremony for Irayan Pluth, 12, Lillia Pluth, 10, Aidan Lindsey, 6, and Dove Lindsey, 1.
Media was not permitted inside the church, but after the service concluded, the family's attorney read a statement that Ciara Lopez, the mother of the four children, had prepared.
"I would like to thank everyone who has kept us in their thoughts and prayers and those who generously donated to help me take care of my children in their final moments here on Earth," the statement read, in part.
More than $50,000 was raised through a GoFundMe account to cover funeral expenses for the siblings.
Through the statement, Lopez said that she and her family are struggling to process such a significant loss.
“Knowing that this is the last time that we’ll ever be able to pick out their clothes or watch them as they sleep – the reality of this has not sunk in for me. I remain stuck in that one night, that one night where everything changed. Standing outside that apartment waiting for different news. I long terribly to be with them in their final moments, sharing in any pain they might have felt. I was told that they passed away in their beds, my girls holding each other, providing love and support and comfort to one another one last time,” the statement read.
While the support from strangers has been overwhelming, Lopez also recognized those who knew the children at Saddler Elementary School and those who saw them together during happier times.
Dove was described as being a bouncy baby who loved to wave at neighbors; Irayan was "a little spitfire" who played video games in her spare time and was known for being an overacheiver in the classroom; Aidan was a "little gentleman" who enjoying playing outside and Lillia was wise and mature beyond her years.
Lopez also offered support to Orlando Police Officer Kevin Valencia, who is continuing to recover after he was shot in the head while attempting to confront Gary Lindsey, who was in a unit at Westbrook apartments with the four children after a domestic violence incident.
"My prayers and support go out to Officer Valencia and his family during this time. I want to thank him for his courage and bravery, trying to help save my children. I pray that he can walk away from this and be there for his family," the statement read.
Police said Lindsey shot the four children as they were asleep in their beds right around the same time Valencia was shot at about 1 a.m. on June 11. Officials said the standoff ended at 9 p.m. when a SWAT team entered the apartment and found that Lindsey had killed the children then fatally shot himself.
Lopez's statement ended with her encouraging anyone struggling with mental illness or domestic violence to seek help before the unthinkable happens.
"We miss them terribly, they were taken too soon and it’s just not fair. I would have died with my children and never in a million years did I foresee harm toward them," the statement read. "Please, if someone you know is struggling with mental illness or domestic violence, have them seek help. This did not have to end this way and it is my hope that another family never has to endure the same."