BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- James and Helen Kilroy were strangers at St. Luke's Catholic Church, but hundreds rushed Thursday night to embrace as family the East Texas couple whose son was among 13 victims of ritual murder.
More than 1,200 people attended memorial services at St. Luke's Catholic Church for Mark Kilroy, 21, of Santa Fe, Texas, a University of Texas student abducted March 14 in Matamoros.
Many in the crowd wore yellow ribbons reading, 'Miss you Mark,' and waited patiently in line to embrace Kilroy's parents after the service.
The Rev. John Nicolau, pastor of the church, said it was a time for rejoycing amidst the sorrow of Kilroy's death.
'Those drug dealers, drug addicts, criminals, killed the body of Mark,but they were not able to kill his spirit -- his soul,' he said.
Nicolau labeled as the 'killing ground' the Mexican ranch where the corpses of Kilroy and 12 other young men were found. But he told listeners the people of Texas and Mexico must unite against the 'fear that this will happen again.'
'We are neighbors. We are one, and we have to pray for the strength of Brownsville and the strength of Matamoros,' Nicolau said. 'The killing grounds cannot be here. Our grounds are used to grow gardens, flowers. We are not used to seeing these grounds full of bones and mutilated human beings.'
Kilroy, 21, a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin, disappeared during a spring break trip to the Texas-Mexico border. His body was found along with 11 others Tuesday on a ranch near Matamoros.
Police were told Kilroy and most of the other victims were killed at random for human sacrifice by a drug trafficking ring that believed their rituals of murder and mutilation would bring them luck.
Four suspects are in custody, and at least six others are being sought. A 13th corpse, believed to be that of a 13-year-old boy, was found earlier Thursday, and the search for more bodies will continue Friday.
'We cannot believe that this could happen to decent human beings,' Nicolau said. 'We feel angry because of the way the crimes were perpetrated.'
Helen Kilroy thanked the people of both cities for their aid in the search for her son.
'Everyone has opened up their hearts,' Kilroy said. 'Pray for the other young men who were found. Pray for their families, too.'
Brownsville residents said they were there to support the Kilroy family, even though they had never met the couple.
'We feel bad about what happened. We never thought something like this would happen here,' sid Alma Zamora of Brownsville.
'We feel we share their sorrow,' added Claudia Medina of Brownsville.