Children came to the front of the sanctuary at the end of Wednesday's service so the congregation could pray for them ahead of school beginning.
As parents were invited up to join, to hold their children's hands, a 12-year-old boy's aunt instead …
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As parents were invited up to join, to hold their children's hands, a 12-year-old boy's aunt instead held his.
His mother had been found dead from what the Sumter County coroner said were blunt force, sharp injuries in her home at Lantana Apartments off Carolina Avenue on Aug. 5, his 5-year-old sister, Nevaeh Adams, missing. Still.
"I remember the day she walked down this aisle," Pastor Larry Weston said Wednesday during a prayer vigil service for the missing child, her slain mother and their grieving family at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church.
The service welcomed prayer after prayer from community members and friends. They prayed for "strength for this family as they go through this hard time," and they prayed for Nevaeh to be found. They prayed for comfort out of despair, unity in pain, closure.
"Whatever chain that's holding her down, I ask Lord that you break that chain. Break it!" the girl's step-grandfather, Elijah Nelson, implored. "Give us some kind of closure."
Nelson and the family sat up front, arms around each other, heads on shoulders.
Bradley's sister, the aunt who played Mom during the prayer over the children, said after the service that she has been taking care of her nephew. She has a daughter about his age.
Last week, she said, they spent their time with the community searching the neighborhood, walking into abandoned houses and ditches, for Nevaeh. This week, they stopped participating in the search parties to plan her 29-year-old sister's funeral, which is on Saturday at the Wall Street church.
The community and family conducted their own searches as Sumter Police Department officers searched 230 tons of garbage at two landfills for the girl's body. Police are considering the search a recovery after the man charged with murder in the death of Bradley, Daunte Johnson, told police he killed them both and dumped the girl's body in the apartment's Dumpster. That was emptied before his Aug. 6 arrest and taken to the landfill in either Sumter or Richland county.
Friends have remained adamant that an Amber Alert should have - and should still be - issued for Nevaeh. Officials have said the case did not meet the federal guidelines to issue one due to a lack of vehicle description and license plate number that could have aided in an abduction and a suspect.
"I understand the position has been that she does not meet the criteria. We do not subscribe to that," said Garryl Deas, the family's attorney. "We believe that she did, so the family is still calling for that Amber Alert to be put into place."
A petition to issue the alert has gained a couple thousand signatures.
At the church on Wednesday, Bradley was present via a photo in the hall. She was holding a sign with a July 28 date, marking when she joined the church, posed next to similar photos of other new members.
Nelson said after the service they will accept any closure. They just want it.
They want Nevaeh home, whether that home is the Lantana Apartments or with her mother.
"Dead or alive, it's God's choice," he said. "She's going to be with the Lord, and I'm OK with that."
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