Mourners gather at Mount Zion Apostolic Faith Church for the funeral of 4-year-old Malachi Lawson.
The laminated comic book blared “FINAL ISSUE” in thick, black font.
A young boy dressed in a cowboy outfit is on the front with speech bubbles around him offering comfort to mournful readers. “Heaven is cool!” and “hey I’m okay.”
Inside the colorful book people could read how “superhero Malachi Lawson” loved Paw Patrol and Mickey Mouse. They saw pictures of the 4-year-old and his family.
And they read a simple, hopeful line: “Remember... an angel never dies.”
Mourners gathered Tuesday to praise Malachi Lawson, whose beautiful smile warmed friends and family, but whose tragic, brutal death shocked and saddened the city. More than 100 people filled Baltimore’s Mount Zion Apostolic Faith Church, many clutching the colorful comic book, as they sang and danced and sobbed.
Malachi’s body was found in a Baltimore dumpster on Aug. 3, ending a search that began one day earlier. His mother, Alicia Lawson and her wife, Shatika Lawson, are in jail without bail on nearly a dozen charges including involuntary manslaughter, child abuse and neglect, according to charging documents filed in court.
Malachi was full of life and getting ready to start pre-kindergarten in September, his grandmother said. He loved dancing, his favorite color was blue. His smile radiated happiness and love.
“I was an only child, but I was happy and playful,” Malachi’s character said in the comic book. “I loved to clap and sing.”
But now he lay in a tiny white casket, with gold accents. Red and white flowers flanked each side.
Malachi’s love carried through to the people attending his funeral at the West Baltimore church. They stood and clapped and sang along to the songs, just as he loved doing. A drummer sat nestled in a corner behind the altar playing upbeat tunes.
“Lift him up,” attendees sang. “Lift him, lift him, lift him higher.”
People coming forward to praise the young boy sometimes started speaking but quickly burst into song.
Rev. Marvin McKenstry delivered the eulogy, reminding family and friends that Malachi is the last book in the Bible in the Old Testament, with only four chapters.
“The book is four chapters and Malachi had four chapters,” McKenstry said. “This young man had a purpose. He has a purpose. We are gathered in this place because only he could bring us together.”
Throughout the service people dabbed their eyes and patted each other on the back for comfort. Sobbing sounded through the church and by the entrance, as people excused themselves from the service, overwhelmed with emotion.
During the wake before the service, Bible verses were read aloud as family processed down the aisle: “I will fear no evil ... I will be in the house of the Lord forever... Do not let your heart be troubled.”
“They say there is a reason, they say that time will heal, but neither time nor reason will change the way I feel,” his grandmother Earlene Code said in the comic book. “You’re so wonderful to think of but so hard to be without.”
The little boy previously was in foster care, authorities said, but had been returned to his mother’s care. The city Department of Social Services has pledged to conduct a thorough review of his case and the decision to reunite him with the Lawsons.
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According to charging documents, Malachi was burned in a bath, but neither Alicia or Shatika Lawson took him to get treatment out of fear he would be taken away from them. After nine days, the boy died and Alicia Lawson took a Lyft to dispose of his body in a dumpster more than 10 miles away from their home, the charging documents said.
Multiple people and community groups have come forward to donate services and items for Malachi’s funeral and burial.
The Charm City East Moose Lodge 70 donated Malachi’s burial plot. Beverly D. Cromartie Funeral Service offered embalming services and donated a casket. Other donations were made by the cemetery and a local printer.