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    Brockton mourns slain boys at candlelight vigil

    Edson Brito and his daughter Tamia embrace following a vigil in memory of his two sons, 8-year-old Edson Brito and 5-year-old Lason Brito, in Brockton on Thursday.
    Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
    Edson Brito and his daughter Tamia embrace following a vigil in memory of his two sons, 8-year-old Edson Brito and 5-year-old Lason Brito, in Brockton on Thursday.

    Over one hundred Brockton community members gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday night outside a Prospect Street home where a mother allegedly stabbed her two young boys to death earlier this week.

    Friends, classmates, and community leaders brought stuffed animals, balloons, and flowers to the home. They sang songs of unity, lit candles, and pledged their support to the victims’ family.

    The bodies of 8-year-old Edson “Marlon” Brito and 5-year-old Lason Brito were found covered in stab wounds in the home Monday, and their mother, Latarsha L. Sanders, 43, was charged with their murder.

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    “This is just a unspeakable tragedy,” said Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter. “Over the last few days, many of us have tried to wrap our heads around it and try to understand it, and no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

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    Sanders pleaded not guilty during her arraignment Tuesday in Brockton District Court. She was ordered held without bail. Prosecutors said that Sanders may have killed her children as part of a “ritual incident.”

    The boys’ father and maternal grandmother also expressed dismay, and asked the public not to rush to judgment.

    “That lady in that kitchen was not my daughter,” said Sanders’s mother, Earline Sanders. “I do know she loved the boys with all her heart.”

    “She loved them so much,” said their father, Edson Brito Sr., “She would’ve done anything possible for the kids, anything. Anyone that can say anything other, don’t know her… That’s not the person I know and I married.”

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    Brito said the couple was married for 12 years.

    “I never knew her for practicing voodoo, or any of that,” Brito said, an apparent reference to the ritual practice cited by authorities.

    Shalea Sanders, 27, of one Latarsha’s two adult children held up a picture of her mother.

    “This lady in this picture is not my mother,” she said in disbelief. “I don’t know who this lady in this picture is.”

    The vigil, which started at 6 p.m., was organized by Ollie Spears, a local activist. Spears and other community leaders spoke of the need to address mental health.

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    “We know mental health is a major, major problem in our community,” said City Councilor At-Large Moises Rodrigues .

    Rodrigues said they are establishing a scholarship in the name of the Brito boys.

    Alana Levene can be reached at alana.levene@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alanalevene.