Community members hold a candlelight vigil and tree dedication in honor of slain 8-year-old Ahliyah Irvin
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Despite the rainy weather, at least 100 people came out to light a candle and say a prayer for Ahliyah Irvin.
The eight-year-old girl was snatched from a southeast Topeka apartment last Tuesday, then raped and murdered.
Community members and strangers joined Ahliyah's friends and family and held hands as they circled around a tree selected in Ahliyah's honor.
They decorated it with ribbons and lit candles late into the evening.
Ahliyah's mother cried and community members were still in shock, but also defiant in the face of violence.
They say they are not only supporting the grieving family but also want to send a message to support law enforcement.
"Most people the first thing that comes to their mind: It could've been mine," Bishop Ronald Lassiter, who led the prayer, said. "And so my main purpose, and I feel many of the people that came out, was to show support to the family and to offer some kind of comfort."
Community activist Yolanda Mitchell said she came out to see if she could make a difference.
"United we stand, divided we fall," she said. "And so far, we've fallen so far behind and our children are the ones that are paying for this."
"We need to wake up and pay attention, because if we don't, Topeka is just gonna be a lost cause," she said.
"The police department, they need all the help they can get. If no one will talk to them, then how do you expect them to do their job to get [the criminals] off the street?" she asked.
The memorial was organized by community activists of the Stop the Violence Memorial Committee who say they don't want to go to any more vigils.
Billy Davis, who was reportedly staying at another apartment in the complex, is being held on $10 million bond on a charge of capital murder for Ahliyah's death.