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Mourners of LeCarvin DeKevin “Kevin” Lewis watch as balloons go up in the air Friday evening near the Denton State Supported Living Center.

Prayers and tears flowed outside the gates of the Denton State Supported Living Center as loved ones paid tribute to LeCarvin DeKevin “Kevin” Lewis on Friday night.

About three dozen members of Lewis’ family and friends, as well as a handful of center staff members, gathered at the center’s entrance for a short vigil the day after Lewis’ body was found on the grounds. Lewis, 41, was reported missing from the 189-acre campus last Saturday. Two staff members found his body behind the kitchen on Thursday.

The Denton center is the largest of the state’s living centers for people with developmental disabilities, home to 446 residents cared for by more than 1,700 staff.

Lewis’ mother, Marilyn Jackson, wept as she greeted supporters.

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Skyler Jackson, left, sister of LeCarvin DeKevin “Kevin” Lewis is consoled by her cousin, LaToya Powell, on Friday near the Denton State Supported Living Center. Lewis’ family released balloons outside the gate of the center as a way to say goodbye. Lewis was reported missing from the center last Saturday and was found dead behind the campus kitchen on Thursday.

“We are just so appreciative of you all coming out to help us in this,” Jackson said, adding that she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support the family received, particularly from the scores of people who volunteered in the search.

The family brought bouquets of blue and white star-shaped helium-filled balloons to release along with a single balloon of green as part of the vigil.

Before the releasing of the balloons, other family members led the group in prayers, thanking God for the love and the life they were able to lead through Kevin.

During the tense days of searching, Lewis’ sister, Skyler Jackson, reposted on Facebook a short video of her and Lewis singing along to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” as they traveled in the car.

“We were bringing him home for Christmas,” Jackson explained.

At the vigil, she decorated her car with a standing sculpture that spelled out his nickname, Kevin, with each letter decorated to reflect his love of the late singer — from the mirrored glove to a likeness of Michael Jackson mid-step in his legendary moonwalk.

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Skylar Jackson, sister of Kevin Lewis, glances over a sign in dedication of her brother Friday near the Denton State Supported Living Center. Lewis was a fan of the late Michael Jackson.

After prayers, family and friends released the balloons. As the winds carried them to northern skies, a handful got caught in the towering pine trees. But as the rest soared over the center’s 189-acre campus, Skyler Jackson’s young son asked about his uncle.

“He’s flying high, baby,” she answered.

Services for Lewis will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the chapel at the Denton State Supported Living Center, 3980 State School Road.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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