FAIRFIELD — Hundreds of people came together Friday night in grief, remembrance and to call for justice after the death 13-year-old Genelle Conway-Allen.
Just a few feet from where her body was discovered a week earlier, family, friends and concerned community members joined to reclaim Allan Witt Park. Conway-Allen was reported missing by her guardian at around 5:45 p.m. Jan. 31 and was found dead early Feb. 1 in the park.
The Faith PAC, a group of pastors from the area, performed a moment of blessing at the site. Numerous pastors including the Rev. David Isom and the Rev. Todd Bertani offered prayer for Conway-Allen and the community.
They also prayed to God that he reclaim the site where Conway-Allen’s body was found and make it a place of safety, free from violence and perpetrators, a place where people could be unified instead of divided.
“We ask that you return this to a safe place, a place of community, a place of life, a place of hope,” said Raymond Courtemanche of the Matt Garcia Foundation.
Faith PAC created ribbons representing each person who lost their life to homicide in Fairfield. They hung those ribbons on a pole next to Conway-Allen’s memorial.
Isom said he hoped he doesn’t have “to put another ribbon on this pole.”
Grief swept over many in the crowd as they left a note or gift and shared their final moments with Conway-Allen at the memorial.
Eric May, the man who discovered Conway-Allen’s body, was among those who were overwhelmed with sadness. He knelt, crying, over a makeshift memorial that said, “In loving memory of our beloved angel child Genelle.”
He said he was just praying, praying “for it to end.”
There was also a feeling anger among some that this could happen to someone so young.
Maberido Sadao came with his wife Cheryl and 2-year-old Emma to mourn for Conway-Allen. Though they didn’t know the her, Maberido and Cheryl Sadao said the girl’s death deeply troubled them, especially since they are raising a young girl themselves.
“It’s disgusting,” Cheryl Sadao said. “She was just a kid. She didn’t deserve this.”
The news Friday that an arrest was made in Conway-Allen’s killing came as a great relief to community members such as Lucy Peneda.
Anthony Lamar Jones, 32, of Fairfield, was arrested on suspicion of Conway-Allen’s murder, kidnapping and rape.
Peneda has two teenage girls of her own. She said the thought that this could have been one of them, that one her girls could have been killed and left naked “like trash,” was just too unbearable. There needs to be justice, she said.
“It is unacceptable that our young children could ever be treated this way,” she said. “This should not have happened. It cannot happen anymore.”
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.