Photographs, song and the spoken word were used to remember and celebrate the life of Jorelys Rivera on the one year anniversary of the grisly murder that shook Canton to its very core.
Those assembled at the Pruett YMCA building in Canton Sunday night chose to remember not how the seven-year-old died, but how she lived. Remembered as a beautiful vivacious girl who loved life, Jorelys was memorialized in a sermon by Mt. Zion Church's Pastor Eloisa Gonzalez.
"God is preparing a banquet for us when we die," Gonzalez said. "And I know when it is time for my banquet, Jorelys will be sitting right next to me."
Jorelys' mother Josilenne Rivera told Gonzalez that Jorelys came to her in a dream as a butterfly. Gonzalez interpreted the dream as Jorelys metamorphosing from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly in Heaven because of her faith.
Amy Turcotte, development director at Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, complimented Josilenne on her selfless attitude throughout her ordeal, thinking only of ways to help her friends and family and rarely asking for anything for herself.
One of her few wishes, relayed to Turcotte, was to one day have a park in Canton named after Jorelys. Turcotte said that she would do everything in her power to make sure that her wish becomes a reality.
Jorelys, who was a student at Canton Elementary School, went missing from the playground area at the River Ridge at Canton apartment complex on Dec. 2.
Her body was found in a trash compactor on Dec. 5. Ryan McCabe Brunn, a maintenance worker at the apartment complex, was arrested and charged with Jorelys' murder.
Brunn later pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Brunn committed suicide just two days later.
The child's abduction and murder turned a critical lens onto the Canton Police Department's handling of the case. The city hired LaGrange Police Chief LouDekmar to investigate how the police department responded to the crime.
Dekmar's report led to the resignation of former Canton police chief Jeff Lance in January and to the department to revamp its protocol of how it handles missing children cases.
After the speeches and music performed by local youngsters, the assembly moved outdoors for the candle lighting. Each candle was lit by a previously lighted candle, giving the proceedings an air of somber solidarity.
A final musical performance was played over portable loudspeakers as the assembly quietly reflected on the life of the young girl who was taken from this world too soon, before blowing out the candles and returning inside at the conclusion of the formal ceremony.
It is safe to say that although the vigil has ended, the remembrance of this remarkable young girl will continue for a very long time.