More than 100 attend girl's vigil
MUNCIE, Ind. -- More than 100 people turned out for a candlelight vigil Friday in memory of Lauren McConniel, the 5-year-old girl who died from alleged neglect.
Mourners included adults and children, most of whom didn't know the victim. They brought flowers, pink teddy bears, a pink "Princess" balloon, candles, a poem and white T shirts that read, "In Loving Memory of Lauren Michele McConniel, In Jesus's Loving Arms."
Paul Hovis, Hartford City, came to the vigil by his girlfriend, Jody Sorrell.
"There may be evil, but God is greater," Sorrell said. "More people may speak up now about child abuse. We need to be here. This is important."
Before her death in March, Lauren had dwindled to the weight of a 30-month-old and suffered seizures, respiratory failure and shock. Her father, Ryan, and stepmother, Brittany, were jailed last weekon felony charges of child neglect resulting in death.
Gary and Valerie Huxhold had a sign made displaying Lauren's photograph inside a pink heart. Gary Huxhold hopes the girl's death "opens some eyes."
The Huxholds and others attending the vigil questioned why medical providers who treated Lauren as well as three other adult relatives who lived in the household didn't report the alleged neglect to child protective services.
A cardboard sign hanging between two trees in front of the house where the girl had lived read, "The McConniels and Lees moved out April 1. New tenants moved in May 1st." The Lees are Brittany McConniel's mother, stepfather and sister.
"I don't want the people who live there now to be run in the dirt," said Teanna Clark, a mother and co-organizer of the event who lives a block away. "We don't want people driving by the house to hurt them."
Organizers invited those attending to write messages in a condolence book for Lauren's biological mother, Amber Huggins, and to make donations to help pay travel expenses for Huggins, who now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., to attend the criminal court proceedings in Muncie.
Tina Merryweather, Clark’s mother, read a prayer and then a poem about being thankful for being able to see a beautiful butterfly even though it didn’t stay around long. After 45 minutes, dark clouds and high winds sent the crowd rushing down the middle of the street to the safety of vehicles.