CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents on a street in the West Side Austin neighborhood marked the third anniversary of a seven-year-old girl’s murder with prayers, balloons and a playhouse.
The inflatable funhouse in front of the two-flat at 1728 N. Luna Av. was a memorial for Heaven Sutton, who was shot to death as she sold candy by a bullet intended for a nearby gang member.
As the children played, a prayer circle formed nearby. Heaven’s mother, Ashake Banks, called on Chicagoans to put the guns down and stop the violence. Then, as the adults prayed, the children drifted over. Little Tavares Harrington was the first to join in, echoing her call to “put the guns down.” The other children quickly added their voices.
When the prayers were over, pink balloons bearing the inscription “Princess” were released into the air. Then the children returned to the playhouse, bouncing around in an atmosphere far different from the one three years ago.
Police charged Jerrell Dorsey, now 29, with murder within days of the shooting, but still seek his alleged accomplice.
The memorial was one of two organized Saturday by the group Chicago’s Citizens for Change. The other one, at 7500 S. Yates Av., marked the second anniversary of the still-unsolved 2013 murder of 23-year-old Cortez Bailey. Balloons were released and flyers distributed to neighborhood residents seeking information that could lead to the killer.
The group’s founder, Joy McCormack, lost her son, 21-year-old Frankie Valencia, when someone fired into a party in 2009.
“The most important thing for us is for them to know that they’re not alone, that there’s a whole community of survivors who are with them and stand with them,” McCormack said.