Stuffed animals adorned the stained-glass windows Thursday inside a large North Dakota church nicknamed the "Cathedral on the Prairie" as hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to three children gunned down in their grandmother's home on the other side of the state.
A note that read, "Rest In Peace Benji, Julia, Luke" was stapled to a large brown teddy bear at the front of the church in the northeastern community of Warsaw.
Benjamin Schuster, 13, Julia Schuster, 10, and Luke Schuster, 6, were shot to death Nov. 18, along with their 64-year-old grandmother, Martha Johnson, in New Town on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Johnson's funeral was Monday in New Town.
"These children are first and foremost children of God our Father," the Rev. John Kleinschmidt said. "They all had beautiful qualities, and we remember them."
The children grew up in the Warsaw area before moving to the northwestern North Dakota town earlier this year to live with their grandparents. Their parents are Kevin and Rebecca Schuster of Minto, just a few miles from Warsaw.
Kleinschmidt remembered them as playful and outgoing, recalling one instance in which Julia kept looping through a receiving line to shake his hand.
"It put a smile on my face every time," he said.
Luke, a first-grader, was remembered as the jokester of the family who liked to make others laugh. He enjoyed playing with action figures and having sword fights with his brothers. He even liked to shovel snow.
Kleinschmidt called Julia the "socialite." She was known to dress up and pretend she was a princess. Family members said the fourth-grader liked to play school with her younger brother and sister, as long as she was the teacher. She liked to catch butterflies.
And Benjamin, an eighth-grader, liked to build forts and spend hours jumping on the trampoline with other kids. He liked working with computers and playing video games with his brothers.
Large displays of photos were set up in the front of the church that showed the children playing on a water slide, boating on a lake and standing in front of an airplane.
Afterward, bells rang out as the children were laid to rest at a cemetery next to the church.
Johnson and the children were shot on a Sunday while her husband, Harley, was out hunting and another Schuster sibling was out sledding. Another sibling, Christian Schuster, 12, was in the home but survived by feigning death as he lay under his slain brother's body. Christian called authorities after the shooter left.
Kalcie Eagle, 21, a New Town man who killed himself in the nearby town of Parshall later the day of the slayings, is considered a person of interest in the case. The FBI is handling the investigation and has not released details.
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