The tearful tributes for Laura Abarca-Nogueda came in Spanish and English.
Friends and family wept at her funeral service Wednesday in south Wichita.
The Rev. Odell Harris Jr. noted, as he stood before rows of teary-eyed people hugging and consoling one another, that it was a funeral no one would have ever expected.
Laura, as they knew her, was 27 and a happy new mother when she was shot and killed Nov. 17 in her west Wichita apartment only six days after her daughter, Sofia, was born.
The baby was abducted, then found safe at a Dallas home after a relentless investigation by Wichita police and the FBI. Authorities arrested Yesenia Sesmas, a 34-year-old fugitive from Wichita now being held in a Dallas jail.
Police said Sesmas had faked being pregnant. The victim and the suspect had once been restaurant co-workers.
Authorities said Sesmas is fighting her extradition to Kansas. The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office said it has begun the process of obtaining a governor’s extradition warrant for her.
On Wednesday, the baby – whose safe return has been viewed as the miracle within the tragedy – lay in her father’s arms in front of her mother’s white casket.
“It is our child now,” Harris told the audience at The Venue on South Hillside, where almost 150 people gathered.
“So what we do is we wrap our arms around Sofia,” he said.
And her father, Manuel, did just that during the service.
He gazed down at his baby daughter almost the whole time. He retrieved a bottle and gently lifted it to her mouth.
Her left arm, which she had been stretching out and levering up and down, tucked back in under her father’s hand as he fed her.
He raised her to his chest, patted her tiny back, cradled her, nuzzled her, rocked her gently so that her extended white socks visibly vibrated in the subdued light. She looked plenty drowsy.
At times, he raised a tissue to his eyes. At times, his shoulders shook from crying as he held on to his baby.
Around them, friends, family and Chipotle restaurant co-workers spoke lovingly of Laura. They expressed their grief. But they also celebrated her life, standing and applauding after people got up and praised her.
The funeral program told some key parts of Laura’s story: She was born Oct. 4, 1989, in Acapulco, Mexico. In December 2005, when she was 16, she and her mother came to the United States. They came “in a search for better opportunities and better education,” it said.
She graduated from East High School in 2008 and took community college classes.
She worked hard in Wichita restaurants and worked her way up.
One of her restaurant jobs, starting in 2015, led to her meeting Manuel.
“She fell in love, and she was the happiest anyone had ever seen her,” the program said. The couple “were ecstatic” with the birth of their child.
Echoing something her brother had said publicly before, the program said: “Laura only got to be a mother for 6 days but … those were the best 6 days of her life.”
Without speaking directly about the circumstances of Laura’s death, Harris said: “Some of us are angry, and rightfully so.”
While acknowledging the overwhelming loss, he implored the mourners to “keep on getting up every day.”
“Because what would Laura want us to do?
“We have got to stick together for this family.”