HILLSBOROUGH, N.H. -- A standing-room-only crowd of classmates, family friends, and relatives finally got a chance to say farewell yesterday to a brother and sister whose bodies were found buried in Ohio 2 1/2 years after their father murdered them.
''People often say that we can now find closure; well, there really isn't closure when you are dealing with the senseless murder of your children," their mother, Teri Knight, said in a statement read to reporters after a memorial service. ''Finding their bodies and bringing them home has allowed us to have a more acceptable ending to this part of the journey."
''I had always said that they needed to be found and not left on the side of a road."
The remains of Sarah Gehring, 14, and Philip Gehring, 11, were found Dec. 1 off Interstate 80 in Hudson, Ohio, by a woman and her dog. Many volunteers had searched for the children since they disappeared July 3, 2003.
They had attended a Fourth of July fireworks display in Concord with their father, Manuel Gehring, who was divorced from their mother. He later was arrested in California and admitted that he had killed them that night, then drove for hours with their bodies before burying them.
He gave authorities information about the burial site, but said he could not remember the exact location, which led to repeated searches along a 700-mile stretch of Interstate 80 west from Pennsylvania. Gehring later committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial.
''We have received hundreds of e-mails and cards and many prayers were answered when Sarah and Philip were found," said Knight, 44, who is remarried and now has twin daughters.
''They are home and now our family can start the next chapter -- living our lives, moving forward, and bringing along all that Sarah and Philip meant to us."
Before the service, Sharon Randall, a longtime friend of Knight's, said she felt relief for the family.
''I can't possibly imagine what she has been going through," she said. ''I don't think it ever will be over, but this will help."
The service in Smith Memorial Congregational Church in Hillsborough, where Knight lives, included readings from the Bible, the playing of songs ''Somewhere Down the Road," ''How Blessed Are They," and ''You Raised Me Up."
''We could feel their presence," said Amy Senecal, a cousin who read Knight's statement.
One of Sarah's best friends reminded everyone ''how much happiness they brought to their friends," said Mary Rose Carter, whose daughter was Philip's classmate. Her daughter, Rachel, said: ''It's nice to know they're finally home."
After the service, Abbie Krill, a grade school classmate of Philip's, called him caring and kind. ''It's hard to lose one of those kind of people," she said.
Carter called the service sad, but not as ''wrenching" as a service before the children were found. ''We're looking out for each other's children more," she said.