Remembering Jada Justice

June 27, 2009

On Friday Jada's cousin and her boyfriend were charged in her murder.

It was for healing and closure that the relatives and friends of Jada Justice, and even those that never met her family before her death, came together Saturday.

They say their purpose was not to mourn the toddler but to celebrate her short life -- and the lessons of love and forgiveness they say -- even in death -- she's teaching.

"I wish I could have had my baby girl for a long time but the man upstairs decided otherwise," said Clarence Justice, Jada's father.

Saturday afternoon Clarence Justice celebrated the life of his baby girl - Jada Justice. Those touched by the 2-and-a-half year old's story gathered with family and friends for a memorial just a day after the girl's cousin - Engilica Castillo and her boyfriend Tim Tkaychik were charged with her murder. both have denied any involvement in the crime.

"I'm a dad. I have kids of my own. I'm a grandfather. it just hurts to the heart," said Anthony Santos, a family friend.

The weekend gathering follows the tragic end to the frantic search for the toddler and a glimpse into the horrific final hours of the child's life -- when investigators allege Jada was beaten to death because of a potty training incident.

"I don't trust anyone now. If I couldn't trust the one I thought loved my baby. It's mind-blowing. my baby is in heaven. She's an angel," said Melissa Swiontek, Jada's mother.

But amid the prayers for Jada and the ones who loved her, for some there is anger over the alleged brutality that claimed the little girl's life. "We're still hurt and angry. To do something like this to a child? Just unbelievable," said Nettie Collins.

So on this day despite the grief -- most of all there is hope and remembrances -- of the one who brought so many together is such a short time. "She's still with us. She's alive in our hearts. She's not gone. She's with us," said Celeste Albanic, a friend of Jada's.

Jada's mother and father say funeral arrangements are still pending because the lake county coroner's office has not yet released the girl's body.

During the memorial service the family thanked law enforcement, the dozens of volunteers who came out for the search for Jada as well as the media for keeping -- Jada's story out there.

They are hoping that through "their" pain -- they can help others.

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