WEST VALLEY CITY — Kailey Vijil and her family are from the Goshute Nation and traditionally are very private when mourning.
But on Sunday, Kailey's mother Deshaun Undergust, her 14-year-old sister Taylor and many other family members joined more than 100 people from the community for a candlelight vigil to honor the 12-year-old girl who police say was enticed out of her home and murdered by a teenage boy Friday.
"It's very difficult for them to have an event like this," said neighbor Dave Gomez, who conducted Sunday night's vigil.
The family did not speak during the ceremony and asked for continued privacy. But they shared many tears and hugs for an hour with people whom they had never met as different cultures came together Sunday to remember Kailey.
"Even though they don't know you, they know you're a sister of (theirs)," Gomez said of the bond that tied people from all races together.
In honor of Kailey's favorite color, purple ribbons were hung all around her West Valley neighborhood and down 3500 South leading to West Valley City Park, near 4400 West, where the vigil was held. Dozens of purple balloons were released in Kailey's honor at the park.
Purple flowers were placed in front of pictures of Kailey. Others posted messages on poster boards such as, "Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us everyday, unseen, unheard, but always near. Still loved, still missed, and very dear."
A prayer was said and "Amazing Grace" was sung in the Native American language.
Kailey was remembered for being a tomboy. She wanted to be a drummer. A Native American group with several young girls performed a drum circle in her honor.
Kailey also loved superheroes, according to friends. Taylor wore a shirt at the vigil with Superman on it in her sister's honor. She also loved anime and her cat, Gary.
At the end of the ceremony, everyone raised their lit candles in the air in Kailey's honor.
Mamie Kynaston's daughter went to Monroe Elementary School for many years with Kailey. She also is a crossing guard at the school and would say hi to Kailey and her sister everyday. Explaining to her daughter what happened wasn't easy, Kynaston said, but it was important for them to grieve with the rest of the community.
"You tell your kids that they're safe and they're protected and that parents keep them safe. And yet when their best friend that they were playing with in March is not here anymore, it's hard for them to understand," she said.
"She was always fun and kind and whenever someone needed help, she would help," recalled 12-year-old Grace Kynaston.
"She was the greatest student," added friend Kierra Draper. "Always did good in school. Made sure her friends were doing good in school. And she never left anyone out."
Kailey's body was found Friday in a horse pasture near 5200 West and 3600 South, about three blocks from her home after police say a 15-year-old boy lured her out of her house at midnight, Friday morning. Neighbors say the boy had been asking other girls recently to come out and play with him.
Investigators do not believe Kailey and the boy had any interaction prior to that morning. Three hours later, her body was found in the field. Police said Kailey suffered some sort of trauma and there was evidence of a struggle, but she was not shot or stabbed. They did not say whether the girl was sexually assaulted.
The boy, whose name had not yet been released, is being held in Salt Lake Juvenile Detention for investigation of murder. The Salt Lake County district attorney could seek to have the boy certified as an adult to face charges.
Neighbors say the boy had been released from juvenile detention not long before the killing. On Saturday, neighbors showed support for both families, dropping off meals to the boy's mother as well as Kailey's family.
The teen and his single mother reportedly moved into the area less than a year ago, according to neighbors.
"We've spent significant time with them," Doug Harris, the family's bishop from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Saturday. "They're torn apart."
He said the teen's mother was staying with a friend.
"They're trying to process right now," he said.
The 15-year-old's family released a brief statement late Friday, saying, "Our hearts and prayers are with the Vijil family and may God comfort all families hurt by this terrible tragedy."
Kailey's mother reportedly has also expressed they have no anger toward the boy's mother.
"She holds no malice or problems with the mother of the young man that's the suspect," Gomez said. "She wants her to know that her heart's going out to her, her prayers are going out to her, and she knows her process is going to be a lot more difficult than what she has been dealing with."
A trust fund to help the family with funeral expenses was set up under Kailey Vijil's name at Granite Credit Union. She will be buried in a private ceremony on the Goshute Reservation.
Gomez said he had learned a lot about Kailey over the past couple of days. He also noted how the horrible tragedy had pulled so many people together.
"We all need to be better neighbors," he said. "We all need to know the people in our neighborhood."
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