URIEL J. GARCIA,Associated Press
RICHLAND HILLS, Texas (AP) — A grieving mother stood before a packed church Thursday and sang “You are my sunshine” — a final tribute to her 6-year-old daughter, whose body was found a week earlier wrapped in a tarp.
Alanna Gallagher’s parents, family and friends gathered for her funeral, more than a week after the girl’s body was found near an intersection of her neighborhood in the Fort Worth suburb of Saginaw. Police haven’t named any suspects as they continue to investigate the killing, and the Tarrant County medical examiner hasn’t publicly determined a cause of death.
Alanna’s mother, Laura Gallagher, and others who spoke sought to focus on their memories of a pretty, vivacious girl who reassured adults with her words and her top-of-her-lungs singing.
“She used to tell me that before she was born that she picked me to be her momma,” said Laura Gallagher, standing behind her daughter’s casket. “Thank you, Alanna.”
People packed the Calvary Lutheran church in Richland Hills, another Fort Worth suburb, where the Gallagher family has attended for years. The choir and some of the attendants donned ribbons and shirts in purple — Alanna’s favorite color.
While muffled tears could be heard as eulogies were being read, waves of laughter interrupted the cries as funny stories were told about Alanna.
“Every time she would be at church . she would be singing on top of her lungs with her hymnal upside down,” said Janelle Miller, a director at the church, as laughter erupted from the audience. “Alanna could do that because before she could read she had the hymn memorized.”
Alanna’s stepfather, Karl Gallagher, recalled how she would ask him to tell her stories when he tucked her into bed.
“She would say, tell me a story about when you were 16, or about when you were 30,'” he said, as he pulled a handkerchief from his black suit’s pocket to wipe away his tears.
Alanna’s biological father Miles McDaniel, also shared his memories of the girl’s friendly personality, saying she would bring joy to new friends she would meet.
“She met people much easier than the rest of us,” he said.
Rev. Phillip Heinze of the Calvary Lutheran Church said he wanted the hour-long service to be uplifting and “bubbly, like Alanna.” But he also consoled the family with prayers.
“Help us entrust Alanna to your never-failing care and love,” Heinze said. “Comfort us as we bear the pain of her death, and receive us all into your everlasting arms.”
Authorities are still searching for the people responsible for her death. The FBI has posted billboards across the Dallas-Fort Worth area featuring Alanna’s picture asking the public’s help that lead to the capture of those responsible.
Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward.