Gina Mace

TALLMADGE: The boisterous laughs are silenced.

The Matchbox cars are put away forever.

On Saturday, the Rev. David Zachrich comforted, as best he could, the family and friends of Wendy Ralston, 31, and her 5-year-old son, Peyton.

Zachrich officiated over the memorial service for mother and son, held well over a month after Marie Ralston found the remains of her daughter and grandson, wrapped in bedding in the woods behind Wendy Ralston’s Stone Creek Drive home.

Just two days earlier, Tallmadge police named Wendy Ralston’s live-in boyfriend — Peyton’s father — as a suspect in the deaths.

Zachrich spoke on the family’s behalf before the memorial service at Tallmadge Lutheran Church. He said Marie Ralston and her husband, William, are grateful for the prayers, meals and other expressions of kindness extended from the community.

“The Tallmadge police have been great,” Zachrich said. “And they’ve received a lot of support from family and friends.”

Zachrich, who has known the family for more than 20 years, met with them in preparation for Saturday’s service.

The family shared memories, in pictures and stories, Zachrich said. He looked at pictures of Wendy Ralston growing up and playing soccer in high school. They all recalled Wendy’s infectious and memorable laugh.

“It was passed to Peyton,” he said.

Peyton loved Matchbox cars, Zachrich said, and he and his grandfather would often play with the miniature vehicles together during their frequent visits.

“That’s the hard part for Grandpa,” Zachrich said. “That’s over.”

Zachrich said it is a challenge for the family to pay for the unplanned funeral expenses. To help, the church started a fund. Anyone who wishes to donate to the “Ralston Family” account can do so at any FirstMerit Bank branch.

Zachrich said Marie and William Ralston are strong and doing as well as expected. They will raise and care for Wendy’s 13-year-old daughter as she tries to accept the sudden death of her mother and brother.

Although the memorial service and eventual burial allow the family to say goodbye, they are looking forward to a resolution to the apparent homicides of their daughter and grandson, Zachrich said.

“It will be a joy and a relief when that happens,” he said.

Authorities have not yet determined how Wendy Ralston and her son died. Their remains were found Aug. 10 and police suspect they may have died about two weeks earlier.

Anthropologists are examining the remains in an effort to determine a cause and manner of death.

Nonetheless, police this week said they plan to confer with prosecutors, who will then present the case to a Summit County grand jury in the next two weeks for consideration of a criminal indictment. Murder charges could meet the criteria under Ohio law to include a death penalty provision.