Along with sprays of peach gladiolas, yellow chrysanthemums and sky-blue carnations, a brown floral arrangement in the shape of a dog, and another in the shape of a football, were lifted into a hearse yesterday and placed beside the casket bearing the body of Mark Settles.
The 12-year-old -- a Boy Scout, church choir member and almost into junior high -- was gunned down last week in his Southeast home along with the family dog. His death not only plunged his family into grief, but also shocked members of a community that knew him as a playful and outgoing child.
Police have yet to make an arrest in the case, which they describe as drug-related, but police sources said yesterday that the investigation is focusing on the possible involvement of Mark's uncle, John Settles, 24. He was the only adult in the Settles' Stoddert Terrace home at the time of the slayings and received a superficial gunshot wound.
He already has been questioned twice by investigators, and police were looking for him yesterday to question him a third time, sources said. Whether John Settles was among the scores of relatives at Mark's funeral yesterday morning could not be determined.
Yesterday evening, one of Mark's aunts, Karen Settles, said that John Settles was not trying to evade police and that it is ridiculous to suggest that he had something to do with Mark's death.
"Mark was his favorite nephew. That's the honest-to-God truth," she said.
She said the children in the large, extended family, already suffering because of Mark's death, were growing even more distraught by reports of John Settles' possible involvement in the slaying.
"Our kids are being more and more frightened," she said. "We aren't going to have a Christmas."
Led by Mark's mother, Eleanora Settles, 27, the family gathered outside St. Judah Spiritual Baptist Church on Anacostia Road NE yesterday morning and formed a procession into the sanctuary. They were met by at least 100 other mourners, including several of Mark's schoolmates from Weatherless Elementary School, who attended with their families.
At the foot of the altar, Mark lay in an open silver-gray casket. Members of his school's glee club sat in choir pews and sang during the funeral. The Rev. Hersel Hagans delivered the eulogy for Mark, focusing on the book of St. John and its teachings on the will of God, he said afterward. Members of the media were excluded from the funeral at the family's request.
Among the mourners who filed out of the small brick church after the service, some of them weeping and dabbing their eyes with tissue, was Shirley McGalliaria, the principal at Mark's school.
She said in an interview later that the school dealt with the shock of Mark's death by bringing in a team of psychiatrists and counselors to talk to some of the students.
She remembered Mark as "a likable child. I don't think I have another child that was better liked by the students. Even in the mischief of a 12-year-old boy, you couldn't dislike him. He really was a good kid."
Mark's father, Chauncey Harris, 28, who is serving time at a minimum-security facility at Lorton Reformatory, was escorted by Department of Corrections officials Tuesday morning to view his son's body at the Woodfork Funeral Home, corrections spokesman Edward D. Sargent said. Harris is serving eight to 26 years for assault with the intent to kill and armed robbery.
Mark was home from school with an eye infection last Thursday when his mother left the house for a short time and walked down the street to visit a relative. When she returned, she found Mark's body sprawled on the kitchen floor. The dog, Old Cyrus, was lying nearby.
John Settles also was shot and, according to Karen Settles, he told the family he passed out without seeing the face of his alleged assailant. Police found a gun near the scene.
Mark's mother, a soft-spoken woman who works as an inserter for The Washington Post, has said she does not understand why her son was killed. After the funeral motorcade wound its way to Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George's County, but before the crowd of mourners surrounded her, she sat, alone, at her son's grave site.