Angela Walker and Shanon Waites wiped tears from their eyes as they left the viewing Wednesday for two children slain last week.
The two women did not know Shakayla and Jordan Hawes, but they were like hundreds of others who were touched by the children's deaths.
"The children looked beautiful," Ms. Walker said. "Like angels."
About 800 people attended the service at Whole Life Ministries on Washington Road, according to Herb Pemberton, an usher. Extra chairs were added to an upstairs fellowship hall for overflow, he said.
Not in attendance was Jeannette Michelle Hawes, the mother of the 3-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy who has been charged with murder in their deaths.
Ms. Hawes, who has remained on suicide watch since her arrest Nov. 29, was barred from attending according to the rules of the Richmond County Jail. Lt. Bill Reeves said no inmate is allowed to attend a funeral without specific approval from the sheriff.
During the service, Roy Searles, an assistant funeral staff member at Mays Mortuary, loaded a number of small stuffed animals into the back of the hearse that would carry the children to their burial site at Mount Olive Memorial Gardens on Deans Bridge Road. The stuffed animals had been left at a makeshift memorial near the bathroom where the children were killed inside the Patee gas station at Lumpkin and Richmond Hill roads, Mr. Searles said.
The media was barred from the service, but an Augusta Chronicle reporter was allowed to attend the viewing of the children.
Inside, mourners sobbed quietly as they filed past the bodies -- their white caskets flanked by flowers and more stuffed animals.
Family friend Theresa McNeil, who called the service "lovely," said she believes Ms. Hawes was not in her right mind when the children were killed.
"I know she loved her kids, her babies," Ms. McNeil said. "Something had to go wrong. That ain't the Michelle I knew who did that."
Investigator Tom Johnson, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, said they are still trying to piece together a timeline of what happened to Ms. Hawes and her children before their deaths. He asked that anyone who had contact with her in the week before the slayings to call the sheriff's office at (706) 821-1080.
Helen Blocker-Adams, a local radio talk show host who coordinated a memorial fund to help pay for Wednesday's burials, said $18,125 had been raised as of Wednesday morning.
"The donations more than covered the funeral expenses," she said, adding that the Hawes family has been very appreciative for the outpouring of support.
Any remaining money in the fund, she said, will be donated to the United Way with specific requests to assist children's and women's nonprofit abuse organizations.
Staff Writer Timothy Cox contributed to this article.
Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those wishing to contribute to the memorial fund for Shakayla and Jordan Hawes can do so at area Georgia Bank and Trust Co. branches until Dec. 15.