WATERVILLE — Mourners gathered Thursday to remember Melissa Sousa, the 29-year-old mother of twin daughters who was killed last week at a Waterville apartment building.

The visitation at Veilleux Funeral Home on Elm Street was informal, allowing friends and family members to gather and reflect on Sousa and her life.

“She was funny, she had a great heart, she loved to be around people,” Sousa’s father, Louis Sousa, of Billerica, Mass., said. “She loved her kids so much. Her kids were her life. She was just a great person in general.”

Friends and family members of Melissa Sousa embrace Thursday as they gather to honor Sousa at Veilleux Funeral Home in Waterville.

Louis Sousa was one of more than 100 people who turned out for the gathering on a balmy, rainy Halloween afternoon. They milled in and out of sitting rooms in the large old funeral parlor, where for the first several minutes, the only sounds were those of men and women weeping.

A baby cried, a little boy dressed in a vest and tie ran across the main parlor to hug a baby girl, and slowly, people began to open up and talk.

They signed a guest book where cards from the Family Violence Project lay in a basket for people to take. The cards bore phone numbers people may call if they need help or advice.

Men, women and children stood in line to approach the open casket where Sousa’s body lay flanked by red flowers, including roses mourners had placed there.

Poster boards near the casket bore photos of Sousa in happy times, laughing with family and friends, embracing her daughters, now 8.

At the top of one poster were the words, “Forever our friend …” Beneath it was the drawing of a large, pink heart.

April Sibert, Melissa Sousa’s aunt, said the family’s main focus is to ensure the twin girls live in Milo with their grandmother, Theresa Martin, Melissa Sousa’s mother. Sibert said the family has a three-bedroom house where they will live and will try to find counseling for the girls.

“They have a long recovery ahead of them,” she said.

Like Sibert, Louis Sousa also said he thinks the children should live with Martin.

“I’d like to see my granddaughters home with Melissa’s mother,” he said. “Whatever it takes to get the girls, these babies, out.”

Sibert said she wanted to thank the community and Melissa Sousa’s friends and co-workers at Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street for embracing the family in its time of tragedy and loss.

Friends and family members of Melissa Sousa gather Thursday to honor Sousa at Veilleux Funeral Home in Waterville.

State Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, spoke to family members at the gathering. He said afterward that the hard part for everyone is not knowing where Sousa’s twins will be placed and how they will fare in light of the tragedy.

“Everybody wants the best for the family and Melissa’s children,” he said. “We care about this community and the family and the children. It’s heartbreaking.”

White said that as parents, other adults and children would be celebrating Halloween on Burleigh Street later Thursday, the Waterville Parent Teacher Organization was planning to collect donations for the twins at the popular event.

“That’s nice, getting the school and the community involved,” he said.

Police reported Wednesday three donation canisters had been stolen over the weekend from three Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Waterville.

Melissa Sousa’s body was found Oct. 23 in the basement of the apartment building at 32 Gold St., where she lived with Nicholas Lovejoy, 28, the father of their twin daughters. Police say Sousa was shot twice in the stomach. Lovejoy is charged with murder in her death.

Sousa was last seen Oct. 22, putting the couple’s twin daughters onto a school bus. Friends and family, fearing for her safety because they had not heard from her, contacted police at about 6 p.m. Friends and family said Lovejoy had mental health issues, owned guns and had threatened to kill Melissa Sousa.

Police stopped Lovejoy at about midnight Oct. 22 on Summer Street, near the couple’s apartment. He was driving Sousa’s Jeep. Lovejoy was arrested for having a loaded gun inside the vehicle and for endangering the welfare of a child, because he had left his children alone at the apartment.

At about 4 p.m. the next day, Oct. 23, during a search of the apartment, Maine State Police found Sousa’s body in the basement.

Lovejoy appeared Oct. 25  in court in Augusta. He did not enter a plea and is being held without bail pending a Dec. 6 hearing.

Friends, family and co-workers of Melissa Sousa will hold a balloon release event at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street in Waterville, where she worked.

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