INDEPENDENCE, MO. Tina Porter found herself doing the comforting Friday as tearful mourners recalled her two children whose remains were found earlier this month, more than three years after they disappeared.
Gwin Griggs, who ran the extended day program at the children's school, was talking about Sam and Lindsey Porter's love of their dog and sports when she began crying. Tina Porter left her seat and put her arm around Griggs.
"I thank you for sharing your children with me," Griggs said.
Sam and Lindsey Porter were 7 and 8 years old when their father, Dan Porter, picked them up from his estranged wife for a weekend visit starting June 5, 2004.
Their whereabouts had been a mystery until their remains were found in a shallow grave near the Missouri River on Sept. 9.
Dan Porter is serving a 38-year prison sentence after he was convicted in February 2006 of parental kidnapping with the intent to terrorize his ex-wife. Additional charges have not yet been filed.
Over the years, Porter has told authorities various stories about what happened to the children, including that he killed them and that they were alive and staying with another family. Because of the conflicting stories, many of the friends and relatives who gathered for the service at Noland Road Baptist Church on Friday had held out hope that the youngsters would be found alive and were just beginning to mourn their deaths.
"Even though it's been over three years since they went missing, the fact that they were found two weeks ago, it's as if we're starting the whole grieving process fresh," said former Jackson County prosecutor Michael Sanders after the service.
One of the mourners, Rhonda Owen, 46, of Independence, counted herself among the hopeful. She recalled giving two teddy bears to Tina Porter two years ago and telling her they were for Sam and Lindsey when they came home.
"We all were holding out hope," Owen said.
As she entered the sanctuary for the service, Tina Porter clutched the bears to her chest. She did not speak during the service.
At the front of the sanctuary, the children's remains rested in two small caskets - a white one for Lindsey and a blue-gray one for Sam. Between the caskets was a picture of the children's beloved bulldog, Bossie, whose ashes were buried with them.