Hundreds Attend Funeral Mass for Three De Queen Children Slain by Mother

FEBRUARY 3, 2006 - Posted at 7:55 a.m. CST

DE QUEEN, AR - Hundreds of mourners have turned out at De Queen to memorialize three young children found lying side-by-side on a bed, who authorities say were apparently smothered and possibly also poisoned by their mother.  The funeral for the three youngsters last night was moved from the main sanctuary of St. Barbara Catholic Church to the parish hall to accomodate a crowd of about 500 people who showed up.  They filled the hall to standing-room-only capacity.

Police say the mother, Eleazar Paula Mendez, told investigators she blessed her children, seven-year-old Elvis, and five-year-old twins Samantha and Samuel, before suffocating them last Saturday morning.  She is charged with three counts of capital murder.

At the funeral yesterday, the Reverend Salvador Marquez-Munoz, pastor of St. Barbara, reminded those who attended that help was always at hand in trying times.  The pastor did not mention either the children's mother or father by name during the service.

He said a tragedy like the children's death is a real test of faith.  He said that, in the search through the darkness, a candle will give us light, and it's Jesus.

At the conclusion of the service, Marquez-Munoz addressed those who turned out for the funeral and thanked them for their support in this time of loss and grief.  He said the children will always be in the minds and hearts of St. Barbara's members, but nothing will be the same from now on.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)