Bud Kennedy

2005: ‘GOD ... has my daddy right now with him’

In 2005, Justin Nava (now Henry) and KayLeigh at the funeral for their father, Officer Henry (Hank) Nava.
In 2005, Justin Nava (now Henry) and KayLeigh at the funeral for their father, Officer Henry (Hank) Nava. Star-Telegram archives

Fourth-grader KayLeigh Nava cried for two days. And played a little in a hospital waiting room. And prayed for a daddy who will never come home.

Finally, she decided to write.

Hours before Fort Worth began saying goodbye to slain police officer Henry "Hank" Nava, his 9-year-old daughter wrote a letter to Stephen Heard, who is accused of killing him.

In a hospital waiting room, she opened her notebook and began: "Dear, Mr. Heard."

By the second sentence, she made her point: "I hope you have a long cruel death."

Of all the words spoken and written in a week of news reports, the most important came from a little girl who had something to say and wanted us all to know.

First, she showed the letter to Miss Gaymon.

Teacher Elizabeth Gaymon of Temple Christian School West remembered KayLeigh's explanation: "I had the supplies here. And I just felt like telling him."

Then KayLeigh showed us.

When a KXAS/Channel 5 newscast came on the waiting-room TV, she and Gaymon sat watching to make sure the reporter read it all the way to the final words: "I know you are going down and my dad is going to Heaven. And I wanted you to know that I know GOD has won victory and he has my daddy right now with him."

She turned to her teacher and nodded approval.

"It made her OK," Gaymon said. "She wanted to see it when they read it. It was very important to her."

Gaymon called the letter "pure KayLeigh."

"She was angry. But she knows her daddy's in heaven and not hurting. And she knows she will see him again."

KayLeigh Nava is our little girl now.

She is Fort Worth's to love and nurture for weeks and years to come, along with her little brother, Justin, and their mother, Teresa.

At Temple Christian, a small private school on Jim Wright Freeway in White Settlement, Gaymon read KayLeigh's letter to her eight fourth-grade classmates Friday morning.

When Gaymon read the line, "You are going down," the children shouted, "Yes!"

"That's what they tell each other all the time 'You're going down,' she explained. "They tell each other that when they're playing games.

For two days, her classmates have repeated lines and asked questions straight out of TV shows and video games: "How did he get shot?" "Who shot him?" "Where did he get shot?"

And they've prayed. The students in the tiny independent Baptist school (enrollment 104) gathered in the auditorium the morning after Hank Nava was shot. They formed a circle, held hands and took turns praying for the Navas.

"They know God can work a miracle," Gaymon said.

"The hard part for them is understanding why God didn't work a miracle and save KayLeigh's dad. There are reasons we don't understand.

"Justin Nava, 4, is too young for his classmates to understand grief. They simply ask teacher Kristi Lipscomb, "Will Justin be back today?"

And they know his daddy "got shot by a bad guy."

When Lipscomb went to the hospital, Justin ran to her side.

"Hey, Mrs. Lipscomb!" he shouted, clutching her.

"It's time for my daddy to go to heaven."

Lipscomb said KayLeigh is a caring big sister who visits Justin between classes.

"She'll ask him, 'How's your day going?' " Lipscomb said. "They hug. They are not typical siblings. She takes care of him \u0097 I could see her helping others the rest of her life."

The Navas are active parents who volunteer and host parties for the close-knit school, the teachers said. When Hank Nava was rounding up donations to take to police families in New Orleans, the students brought toothbrushes and other toiletries.

Their classmates at Temple Christian will miss the Navas for a few more days.

As the teachers talked Friday, we could hear children singing in the auditorium. The students were rehearsing for a Christmas program Tuesday.

That program might have to be postponed.

KayLeigh Nava is one of the angels.

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