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Grief flows at funeral for Moorhead family of 7 killed by carbon monoxide: 'It breaks your heart'

The memorial services for seven people, and the burial of five people, marked one of the largest funeral services in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area’s history.

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Photo candles are displayed during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Five hearses were parked outside the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Friday, Jan. 14, for the Hernandez-Pinto funeral services.

Inside the church, more than 200 people gathered silently while five of the family’s bodies lay in their coffins, some of which were open casket, in the church’s chapel area. Family and friends wept openly as they paid their last respects.

Attendees found their seats as the coffins for 34-year-old Marleny Pinto Orellana and her children — 16-year-old Breylin Hernandez Pinto, 7-year-old Mike Hernandez Pinto, 5-year-old Marbely Hernandez Pinto — and Marleny's niece, 19-year-old Mariela Pinto Orellana, were wheeled into the main service area.

The bodies of 37-year-old Belin Hernandez Castillo, father of the three children who died, and his 32-year-old brother Eldor Hernandez Castillo, were not present as they will be sent back to Honduras per family wishes, said Wright Funeral Home director Adam Nordin.

Nordin realized that the memorial services for seven people, and the burial of five people, marked one of the largest funeral proceedings in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area’s history.

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The Mount Carmel worship band from Moorhead performs during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum

“From the family there is a lot of grief. We are honored to help where we can and the family has been gracious and appreciative. I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Nordin said.

The Hernandez-Pinto family, originally from the Honduran town of San Francisco de Yojoa, were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in their twin home at 4403 13th St. S. in Moorhead, on Dec. 18. They attended Mt. Carmel Church in Moorhead, and the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd volunteered space for the ceremony, Nordin said.

Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe attended the service, and said the source of the accidental carbon monoxide poisoning has now been narrowed down to a furnace kept in a closet in the garage, but the department is still waiting on final tests.

The carbon monoxide detector was removed and put into a laundry cabinet, police said. A furnace and a vehicle parked in the garage were identified as possible sources of carbon monoxide in the home.

Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson, who also attended the service, said city officials met with the family's relatives immediately after the deaths. She also reached out to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to see if family back in Honduras could make the trip to Minnesota to attend the funeral, adding that attempts to do so failed.

“This is just a wonderful family, and the innocence of it breaks your heart,” said Moorhead City Manager Dan Mahli, who also attended the service.

Surviving family and friends gathered together to sing a song of thanks for the community’s help while the Mt. Carmel worship band accompanied. The service was lively, filled with performances and prayers that left some in the crowd in tears.

“It is tough on family and friends in this moment. It is a reality everyone has to face, we don’t know when, we don’t know how, but it is the reality,” said pastor Rene Morazan of Long Prairie, Minnesota, through an interpreter during the service.

Morazan described the children who died as obedient, happy, full of smiles and hugs and “grand ideas."

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Pastor Eric Brand Mejia from Mount Carmel Church gives a sermon during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum

“We don’t say our goodbyes, even though they are gone. They are sleeping, and they will always remain in our hearts,” Morazan said.

Pastor Eric Bravo Mejia of Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church in Moorhead prayed for strength and understanding for the surviving family.

According to a translation of the Spanish service program, Breylin Hernandez Pinto was a loving and clever girl who always made people laugh.

“She was a girl with many goals and dreamed of one day becoming a model. She was also very devoted to her father and loved going to work with him,” the program stated.

Mike Hernandez Pinto was born in Long Prairie, Minnesota, and he was an affectionate boy, according to the program. He dreamed of being a firefighter and a police officer. He was also a cancer survivor, and despite his young age “liked to speak to God.”

Marbely Hernandez Pinto was also born in Long Prairie, and she liked art and drawing and “always had little gifts for her mom,” the program stated.

Mariela Pinto Orellana was born in Honduras, and had dreams of becoming a dentist. “At her young age she was a great support for her whole family. She was a very responsible person and an excellent student,” the program said.

Belin Hernandez Castillo was also born in Honduras, and loved spending time with his family. “Belin had many dreams to achieve, among them were making the trip to Honduras and returning to see his family,” the program stated. “He will always be in our hearts.”

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Marleny Pinto Orellana was born in Honduras, and she always put her family first. “She was a principled woman and, above all, a great mother,” the program stated.

The five members of the Hernandez-Pinto family will be buried at Riverside Cemetery in Moorhead.

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Five hearses are parked outside at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd for the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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The Mount Carmel worship band from Moorhead performs during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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Mourners pay their respects during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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A slide show is viewed during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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Pastor Eric Brand Mejia from Mount Carmel Church gives a sermon during the Hernandez-Pinto family funeral services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Marleny Pinto Orellana.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Marleny Pinto Orellana is lit at her funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Belin Hernandez Castillo.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Belin Hernandez Castillo is lit at his funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Marbely Hernandez Pinto.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Marbely Hernandez Pinto is lit at her funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Mike Hernandez Pinto.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Mike Hernandez Pinto is lit at his funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Breylin Hernandez Pinto.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Breylin Hernandez Pinto is lit at her funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Mariela Pinto Orellana.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Mariela Pinto Orellana is lit at her funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
A plaque and candle with a portrait of Elder Hernandez Castillo.
A plaque and candle in memorial of Elder Hernandez Castillo is lit at his funeral service on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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