Family Buries Boy Killed In Ice Cream Crash

Funerals For Two Women Killed To Be Held Later

A 3-year-old boy who died in an ice cream shop was buried Wednesday by heartbroken family members, friends and strangers touched by his death.

Marten Kudlis and two women were killed in a chain-reaction crash last week in Aurora. The two women were in a pickup truck, making a left turn at Havana and Mississippi, when they were broadsided by a speeding sport utility vehicle. Their pickup truck was shoved into a Baskin Robbins shop and Kudlis, who was sitting by the window waiting for ice cream, was thrown out by the impact.

The toddler died at the hospital. The two women -- Patricia Guntharp, 49, and Debra Serecky, 51 -- died at the scene.

At the start of Wednesday's service, held at the chapel at Fairmount Cemetery, Marten's father cried, "I really loved him."

Marat Kudlis then yelled, "That bastard!" referring to the man many people blame for causing the crash.

Francis Hernandez, 23, is being held on three counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and hit and run.

But it wasn't anger that permeated the ceremony. It was instead a deep sorrow.

"This burden feels like more than we can bear because it is so sudden. It's a parent's worst nightmare," said the rabbi presiding over the Russian Jewish service. "It does not seem fair and it is not fair to lose someone so young."

The first song played at the service was Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven."

Marten's uncle, Eddie Kudlis, choked out words between sobs.

"I called him monster, my little monster. He was everything but," Eddie Kudlis said. He prayed to his mother -- Marten's grandmother -- who died just last year.

"Mom, help my little monster, my little buddy," Eddie Kudlis said.

The Kudlis family took solace in the rabbi's words -- that Marten is now with God and now has everlasting life in their hearts.

Marten was born in Estonia and had just learned to ride a bicycle. Inside his open casket was a teddy bear.

During the service, the family played a video montage of Marten and played songs sung by children in Estonia.

After the funeral, some people drove back to the crash site, home of a memorial which has grown exponentially and covers half the distance between the sidewalk and the boarded up facade.

"I helped pull Martin out of the building. I was right there with him. He squeezed my hand. I held his hand until he passed on," said Duane Stokes. "My fiance and I were just saying a prayer to Marten and just getting one last glimpse of everything around here. Just to say our goodbyes to him."

The owner of the Baskin Robbins wants to rebuild his store and reopen by Friday. He said he's received permission to donate the hundreds of stuffed animals, cards and flowers at the site to charity.

Guntharp's funeral is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Horan and McConaty Mortuary at 11150 E. Dartmouth Ave. Serecky's cremation service will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at Fairmount Mortuary. Both are open to the public.

Serecky's husband said he was thankful for his wife's coworkers at Albertson's.

"The Albertson's people she worked with they were -- it was like a light through the tunnel. I was totally distraught. They went to the accident and put up a plywood with a card and had customers and coworkers come and sign the card. I left the card in the Albertson's parking lot so people can have their finish with her. They are going to have a plaque mounted outside of Albertson's wall, near the smoker's area, in her name. I think that is really stepping up, that she touched a lot of people. I think it is outstanding that a grocery store would do that. It shows that people really cared about her."

Her coworkers said she will never be forgotten.

"Debbie was like the best person to work with. She was like my personal diary ... I told her everything and she was always there for everybody. She was like everybody's mom," said Serecky's co-worker Kerry Hettick.

Gov. Ritter Acknowledges System Has Failed

Hernandez is due in court Thursday.

With 12 aliases and two dates of birth, Guatemala native and confirmed illegal immigrant, Hernandez compiled a long Colorado rap sheet but managed to stay off immigration officials' radar screen.

Officials say Hernandez passed himself off as a U.S. citizen. Even though he had been arrested 16 times in the past five years, he's never been deported nor raised the suspicion or scrutiny of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The tragedy now has politicians clashing with each other over illegal immigration.

Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter acknowledged the system failed in Hernandez's case. Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo claims the governor and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper have "blood on their hands." And Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer has used the incident to accuse his opponent, Mark Udall, of doing little on immigration reform.

Gov. Bill Ritter said the legal system failed, and defending himself, and his administration from Republican charges that they've been lax on illegal immigrants, he said, "It is I think, outright, the most dramatic form of political pandering. That doesn't get us to the place of solutions. So I do think it's fair to say this is not the place or time to play politics with this tragedy. If there are solutions we need to find, let's go about finding those solutions. Let's even try to do that on a bipartisan basis. But I think both the House Minority Leader and Rep. (Tom) Tancredo were way out of bounds."

Tancredo accused Ritter of attempting to shift the blame.

"While it might be politically expedient to blame Washington for what happened this week or to characterize my criticism of him as 'out of bounds,' the fact remains that Gov. Ritter is in charge of enforcing the law and keeping Coloradans safe," Tancredo said. "It's time for Gov. Ritter to take concrete steps to ensure that illegal aliens like Francis Hernandez, who had been apprehended by police more than a dozen times, end up behind bars, not back behind the wheel."

Colorado authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are also in discord: They dispute when ICE was notified to investigate Hernandez's legal status.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said Hernandez has been arrested more than a dozen times since 2003 by nine different police departments.

Hernandez's attorney, Kallman Elinoff, said he doesn't know whether his client is in the country illegally, but says the issue is irrelevant to the case.

Tim Counts, an ICE Public Affairs spokesman, told 7NEWS his agency is working hard in Colorado.

"We are being very responsive. I understand some law enforcement may feel frustrated if we're not there when they snap their fingers. But like all law enforcement, we have finite resources," Counts said.

He said during fiscal year 2007, the Denver ICE Office of Detention and Removal deported 5,594 illegal immigrants from Colorado. Through Aug. 4 of this fiscal year, the Denver ICE office has deported 4,792 illegal aliens, Counts wrote.

In addition, last year ICE's Criminal Alien Program (CAP) identified 4,545 illegal aliens in Colorado jails and prisons, and placed them in deportation proceedings. This fiscal year, through June 30, the CAP had identified 4,505 illegal aliens in Colorado's jails and prisons, with three weeks remaining in the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

In comparison ICE has deported 285,896 nationwide in fiscal year 2007 and 265,697 through Aug. 4.

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