Special Reports

Treasure Valley mourns 'everyone's child' Robert Manwill

Family and friends of Robert Manwill, 8, attend his funeral service at Cloverdale Funeral Home in Boise Sunday afternoon. Robert's mother, Melissa Jenkins, right, is consoled by her mother Dorie Jenkins. Robert's father, Charles Manwill, left, grieves with his wife, Afton. The family was joined by several hundred people for an outdoor service. Many from the Boise community who helped search for Robert when he was reported missing July 24 attended the funeral.
Family and friends of Robert Manwill, 8, attend his funeral service at Cloverdale Funeral Home in Boise Sunday afternoon. Robert's mother, Melissa Jenkins, right, is consoled by her mother Dorie Jenkins. Robert's father, Charles Manwill, left, grieves with his wife, Afton. The family was joined by several hundred people for an outdoor service. Many from the Boise community who helped search for Robert when he was reported missing July 24 attended the funeral. Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

The community that searched for a missing 8-year-old boy came out for him one last time Sunday as his father promised justice for his son's killer.

Robert Manwill was laid to rest as white doves circled over head and family members wept.

"I believe that Robert Manwill should be remembered as Boise's peace child," said Pastor George Sova, who led the service. "... As a community, we will not let Robert Manwill's death be in vain."

Several hundred - including a contingent of the Idaho National Guard in dress uniform - turned out for the funeral at Boise's Cloverdale Funeral Home and Memorial Park, a small percentage of the thousands who searched, held vigils and found themselves connected to the child with a reputation for impishness.

Black-clad pallbearers carried a glass-encased urn containing Robert's ashes that sat in in front of the crowd. Sova called on those gathered to connect as a community with "an outpouring of love."

Sova read a letter from Robert's mother, Melissa Jenkins, and a fierce letter from his father, Charles Manwill.

"My memory that I will hold tightly is of you in the ocean," Jenkins wrote. "You were frolicking in the waves and shrieking with delight."

Charles Manwill spoke of his family growing by "thousands of people in the last two weeks," and called Boise the true "City of Brotherly Love."

Manwill also expressed confidence in members of the Boise Police Department and FBI, who are working to solve the mystery surrounding Robert's disappearance and death.

"My first reaction was to find the lowlife SOB and make him suffer in oh so many ways for the horrible crime he perpetrated against you," Manwill wrote. "Mom Afton holds me back and reminds me that this family can't afford to lose another member in pointless revenge. Especially since it will not bring you back to us."

Christie Morales, Robert's elementary school teacher from New Plymouth, remembered her "rambunctious" student as being full of love and very verbal for his age.

"In his death, he became everyone's child," Morales said. "... God and all of his angels are getting lots of hugs from Robert. We love you and we miss you."

Family members, including Robert's siblings, kissed and whispered to white doves before releasing them to carry messages to Robert during Sunday's outdoor service. Raucous country music songs - Robert's favorites - also were featured.

The family and guests proceeded to a gravesite, where they buried the child with his grandfather and half-brother, Charles Manwill's son, Michael, who was stabbed to death in 1993 by another ex-wife.

Marcy Simily of Boise came to the graveside service late on Sunday. Her co-workers had helped in the search for Robert.

"It is so sad," Simily said. "I wanted to pay my respects."

Sue Pearce of Nampa called the service beautiful.

"He is going to heaven on wings of doves," Pearce said while tearing up. "I have family in Florida, and they have watched and watched and watched this."

Robert Manwill lived primarily with his father and stepmother, Afton, in New Plymouth.

He was visiting the Vista Avenue-area apartment of his mother and her boyfriend, Daniel Ehrlick Jr., when he went missing on July 24. Police, Idaho National Guard members and thousands of residents searched for the boy.

As days passed and Robert wasn't found, the Statesman reported that Jenkins and Ehrlick had lost custody of Robert's infant half-brother after Jenkins was convicted of fracturing the baby's skull. Neighbors said they saw Ehrlick home the night Robert disappeared.

Ehrlick has been convicted of burglary, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia, and he is banned by the courts from being alone with Robert's half-sister.

Police seized vehicles and evidence from the apartment home, saying it appeared Robert was the victim of a "tragic event." Police also extensively searched the yard of a South Boise home rented by a friend of Ehrlick's family.

Robert's body was found Aug. 3 in the New York Canal near Kuna.

The Ada County coroner's office said Robert's death was a homicide, and Boise police officials said the boy had not been abducted by a stranger. Police continue to investigate Robert's death.

Kathleen Kreller: 377-6418

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