WESTMINSTER — Juan Manuel Delgado, the 12-year-old boy killed, dismembered and partially encased in concrete, was laid to rest Saturday as grieving relatives and friends remembered an energetic boy who loved making people laugh.
"He was always smiling, telling jokes and offering to help," his cousin Sofia Delgado said after an emotional open-casket memorial service at a Long Beach mortuary attended by about 200 people. After the service, Juan was buried at Westminster Memorial Park.
Teachers, fellow students and neighbors in attendance focused on Juan's life and spoke little of the gruesome circumstances surrounding his death. But a few could not hold back their grief and anger.
"The person who killed Juan has to pay for all this pain he's caused," said Catalina Delgado, one of the boy's aunts. "He was such a good kid who didn't deserve what happened to him."
John Samuel Ghobrial, a one-handed drifter known around town as a panhandler who befriended children, has been charged with Juan's slaying.
He is accused of sexually assaulting Juan, asphyxiating him, dismembering his body and encasing some body parts in concrete blocks. Ghobrial, 27, is being held without bail and is awaiting arraignment.
Though many questions about the case remain, family members said the funeral provided some closure. Victor Arencibia, a Jehovah's Witness minister from La Habra, assured mourners that Juan feels no more pain and is in a better place.
He said Juan had memorized a Bible passage about life after death. "Revelation 21:14 was his favorite," Arencibia said. "It says that God will wipe out all the tears, and death will not exist. Imagine a 12-year-old child thinking about a place where there is no death and no more suffering."
The minister, like many friends and relatives, described the boy as timid and shy in initial encounters. But he always wore a smile and won people's favor quickly.
"Behind the smile was a child full of life and hope for the future," Arencibia said. "We will miss him so much."
A teacher from Washington Middle School, where Juan was a sixth-grader, recited a poem dedicated to the boy.
"Your short life, Juan, was a joy among us, a brief, bright visit, and, now, you are sent . . . to a place far more peaceful," teacher Ned Nossaman said.
An aunt from Downey said Juan rarely sat still. "He always said, 'Tia, can I help you?' And he'd help serve dinner or sweep the floor or do whatever I needed done," Guadalupe Delgado said.
Juan's uncle Martin Delgado of Anaheim shared similar memories. "He was always helping the neighbors clean their yards or working at the corner stores for sodas and cookies," the uncle said. "Whatever money he earned, he gave to his mother. And he would bring her flowers almost every day. . . . I just can't understand why this happened. It's so painful."
Ghobrial arrived in the United States through Mexico in March 1996 and was granted asylum. He is an Egyptian Coptic Christian who fled his homeland because he was being persecuted by Muslim extremists, authorities said.
Police found Juan's body parts in homemade concrete blocks and followed a trail of concrete and blood to Ghobrial's home, a wooden shed he was renting behind a house on Greenwood Avenue in La Habra. Detectives believe Juan was killed March 21, four days after he failed to return home from school.
The case still is being investigated, and the victim's pelvis has yet to be found.
The tragedy has rattled nerves all over La Habra. On Saturday, many mourners were trying to understand what happened.
"My nephew was such a fun-loving child," said Juan Rangel of La Habra. "It's such a tragedy that he had to die in this terrible way."