At home, six-year-old Markell Beasley was allowed to eat only one piece of candy a day. But on Sundays he tricked his pastor into giving him extra sweets.
"He'd always pull my coattail and say, 'Pastor, can I get my candy today?'" said Pastor Adrian Hendricks of the Joshua House Church in Jefferson City, Mo.
Not long after Markell's family moved from the southeastern part of the state to Jefferson City less than two years ago, the boy asked for a buttoned-up shirt and tie--like Pastor Hendricks' attire. He planned to join "Baby Saints," an after-school program for the church's youngest members.
"He knew he wanted to do more, he wanted to be something different," Hendricks told msnbc.
Markell was a polite child who was mild-mannered around everyone except his friends, with whom he practiced karate in the church foyer. He lived with his mother in Jefferson City and attended kindergarten at Cedar Hill Elementary School. She called him the "man of the house" because he often volunteered to open doors for her and help carry groceries.
"He had that optimism that one day he would be a solider like his cousins and grow up to be strong and be able to protect his mom," Hendricks said. "And be the ideal man that she needed."
Markell was fatally shot by his mother's former boyfriend on Dec. 24, 2013 in a house in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The killer, who also shot himself, had lied to Markell's mother about where he was taking the child, and police were searching for him.