Mournful wails filled the big, wood-beamed funeral chapel on East North Avenue, cries of pain and sobs of bewilderment: After 13 short years on Earth, Moe was going home.
Ruben "Moe" Lawson Jr. was shot to death a week ago. He was with a group of kids who were ringing a West Baltimore doorbell to agitate an elderly man.
Moe Lawson's alleged killer, identified by police as the elderly man's son, was still at large yesterday as the boy's body lay in its lace draped white coffin, a Christmas wreath on one side and his mother trembling in a front-row pew a few feet away.
Luther Reed stood with a microphone behind the dead boy and accompanied an organ player with his rich baritone, using it to try to comfort the people who loved Moe Lawson. More than 200 of them crowded into a chapel at the March Funeral Home.
Raising his eyes to the ceiling and waving his hand, Mr. Reed sang: "Take my hand, precious Lord, and lead me home . . ."
And the wails grew louder.
Cousins had to be escorted out of the chapel, friends stared ahead without expression, and the victim's father, Ruben Lawson Sr., did his best to console Moe's mother, Isabel Archer, putting his arm around her and holding her hand.
Song followed song and psalm followed psalm as several preachers took turns offering words they admitted held little comfort in the face of such tragedy. Said one minister: "Help them, dear God, to realize that you never make a mistake."
Moe was grabbed and shot last Sunday night. The Harlem Park Middle School student had been running away from William Cecil Brandon Sr.'s row house on North Smallwood Street.
The boy lived on Edmondson Avenue but was visiting his grandmother when he and some other boys rang the doorbell, a prank pulled often to unnerve the 68-year-old Mr. Brandon.
But last Sunday, instead of trying to run after the elusive adolescents himself, Mr. Brandon sent his 49-year-old son, William C. Brandon Jr., to deal with the mischief-makers. Moe was shot once in the chest.
Last week, the elder Mr. Brandson said: "I came in here and told my son: 'Go out there and straighten that kid up.' I had no idea he was going to shoot him. The way I figured, if a younger person goes out there, they might listen more than if it was an old man."
Baltimore police have had a murder warrant on file for the younger Mr. Brandon, of the 600 block of North Brice Street, since the night of the shooting.
One of the ministers who addressed the mourners yesterday was the Rev. Willie Ray, a man who has been crusading against the rampant violence in Baltimore's black community -- particularly among teen-age boys -- for the last six years.
Each year, Mr. Ray's "Stop the Killing" campaign holds annual rallies, carnivals and seminars aimed at persuading youths to stop killing each other -- but to little avail.
As Mr. Ray spoke the homicide total in Baltimore this year had reached 285. Most were young black men and boys who died at the hands of their peers.
"How do you stop the killing?" Mr. Ray asked, echoing a question that has been ask of him many times.
"We stop the killing by starting the loving," he said. "All of us are dying everyday whether you like it or not. Brother Moe is with God, and those of you who would try to judge him, it is not in your hands, that's God's job. The main thing is we have to get our own house in order."