Just beyond the crowds of birthday parties and volleyball games at a Mansfield park Sunday night, more than 60 people attended a candlelight vigil for Leiliana Wright, 4, who was beaten to death last month.
“I hope tonight will give me the push forward to go on and fight this,” said Alisa Clakley, Leiliana’s grandmother.
Leiliana’s mother, Jeri Quezada, 30, and her boyfriend, Charles Phifer, 34, are accused in the girl’s death. Both are jailed in Grand Prairie.
Many of the family and friends at Sunday’s vigil at Katherine Rose Memorial Park wore bright yellow shirts that read “Justice for Leiliana.”
As the wind died down and the pale blue sky turned to sunset, Leiliana was described as a happy girl who just wanted to be loved. Always dancing, she was said to have a never-ending smile and a contagious laugh.
Through tears of sadness and anger, her grandmother read a letter she wrote to Leiliana and expressed how much she and her husband, Craig Clakely, loved and miss her.
“Your beautiful spirit will never be forgotten,” she said. “We are proud to have known and met you.”
Leiliana’s father, Brian Maker, spoke briefly of the nightmares he has been having, and he broke into tears.
Craig Clakley talked about his hope for an end to child abuse. He said even after the cameras are turned off and people stop reaching out to him that he will continue to fight for Leiliana in the hopes of helping at least one child, one family, from experiencing the same fate.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled that Leiliana died from blunt-force trauma to her head and abdomen. The child had extensive bruising from head to toe and whip marks on her back, an arrest warrant affidavit stated.
A Child Protective Services caseworker and a supervisor who worked on the case were fired. A CPS special investigator who also worked on the case resigned.
This story includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Azia Branson; 817-390-7547, @aziabranson