HOLT, MI -- Sitting on a sofa in his living room, the dappled sunlight that filtered through the slats of the vertical blinds playfully touched John Edmond’s face. As his wife and Amaia Edmond’s stepmother, Sonya Edmond, sat beside him it appeared as though their love for each other was a major source of strength and they would need to make it through this “dark hour”. The longing stare of John’s eyes and slightly wrinkled brow changed the moment he began to speak. His featured softened as he began to tell the story of Amaia’s life.
“I am going to become an advocate for victims and families of violent crime,” John said with astounding conviction for a man who had just lost his first-born child.
Any grieving parent can tell you they do not expect their children to go to heaven before they do. Edmond said that after he rushed to the hospital and stood over Amaia’s small body as she lay lifeless, he promised her that her death would not be in vain.
Amaia, who was 7-years-old, was wounded in a shootout on July 22, 2010, when 3 men broke into the home on Custer Avenue that she shared with her mother, Corrina Burton and stepfather, LeVar Burton and her two brothers. She passed away on July 23, 2010, as a result of her injury. Amaia spent time in 2 household’s due to a joint custody agreement. Amaia also lived in Holt with John and Sonya and a younger brother.
With the shock and frustration of the unsolved case and lurid tales and urban legends, John doesn’t want people to speculate. He states that if you have concrete information, provide it directly to law enforcement.
“This is a time when the community should come together and not make the situation sensational. People need to not lose sight of the case, however, I want everyone to focus on who Amaia was,” lamented John.
A Gift From God
John said from the time Amaia was born she has been a joy in his life and a gift from God. Her name means “high place” and indeed her father believes that she is in heaven. He reflected on some very personal times that he spent with Amaia and her voracious appetite for learning and a relentless quest to answer her own questions to life. He added that she taught him how to be a father.
“At 25-years-old I had to be responsible, I had a duty to take care of my daughter. There is a certain connection between a father and his daughter and it is special,” said John.
With her sometimes mischievous smile, those who were around her could see that she worked hard and had a desire to be successful, which was evident when she boosted her reading grade in 1st grade to an educational level far beyond what was expected of her. In the fall of 2010, she would have started 2nd grade at Wexford Montessori Magnet School, where she has been attending since kindergarten.
Her kindergarten teacher at Wexford Montessori Magnet School, Angela Morris, fondly remembers the Edmond family.
“Mr. Edmond was at the school almost every day. The children will expect to still see him in the fall. He had such a great relationship with the boys in the school. He is a great role model and always involved with Amaia’s education.”
With a smile, John remembered his daughter during their visit to the Lansing School District Magnet School Fair . He was looking for a perfect school for Amaia, one in which she would be respected for her wisdom and her need to explore everything at once. As soon as he walked to the information table, Amaia ran to the tables and began to work, which is one of the reasons why John chose Wexford. It was obvious to him that Amaia was immediately attracted to it.
Stacie Mullins, Amaia’s first grade teacher was going to be her teacher in second grade.
She remarked, “Amaia was a bright, wonderful child with an infectious smile. Her energy, spirit, sense of friendship, and love for others will be greatly missed in our classroom this fall. Mr. Edmond's constant presence in our classroom not only benefited Amaia but other students as well. I look forwarded to a continued relationship with Mr. Edmond as we memorialize Amaia and work together as a school community to ensure this does not happen to another child.”
The Last Trip
The death of a child is one of the most devastating losses that families can suffer. Overcoming grief can be difficult, Sonya’s eyes glistened as she listened to John recount the story of their last trip with Amaia to his paternal family reunion in Canton, Mississippi.
John said she complained of being so tired. Amaia slept most of the way there and on the way back. It was a though she was preparing herself. She had been so tired but then when it was time to play, she was her bubbly self he remembered. While looking in the rear view mirror, John recalled how peaceful she looked and he mentioned to his wife if it was normal for a child to sleep that much.
In retrospect, John said with awe, “Then it hit me that when elderly people are preparing themselves to leave this earth they are tired. Their time is done on this earth. Amaia was preparing us.”
No one ever envisions the daunting task of preparing a funeral. Almost 800 people, packed Union Missionary Baptist Church located at 500 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. It was standing room only as people continued to file in for Amaia’s homegoing.
Pastor Tracy Edmond from Walk in Truth Ministries, a non denominational church located at 111 Magnolia Street delivered a powerful message.
Pastor Edmond preached about Amaia’s love and her decision to serve Christ at the early age of 7. She has a discussion with her father about being saved and told him that she wanted to be baptized.
“She was full of love . She understood at a very young age the love of Jesus. I encouraged them that we need to celebrate her life and remember her in life in love. Before you knew it, there was a celebration of her life,” said Pastor Edmond.
The pastor urged the mourners to celebrate Amaia’s homegoing. He added, “I had a vision where I saw her running through a green field that she was jumping for joy. People stopped focusing on her death and started to focus on the beautiful transition that she made to be with God... Crime is not something that can be stopped, only God change the heart. Before men change, hearts must change.”
Friends and Family
While John and his family will face challenges for the rest of their lives, they will continue to preserve the legacy that Amaia left, which is to live life to its fullest. He firmly believes that without Christ in his life it would be more of an uphill battle.
There are many ways that the families who are grieving can be provided with support. Friends who are patient and reassuring help with the process.
Michelle Hills, a family friend for almost 25 years, stopped by the Edmond residence with dinner for the family. She reminisced about how adorable Amaia was and how she loved to learn.
“I would always see her in the garden with her grandmother, Vernetta Edmond. She was an amazing child. During this time of mourning, everyone needs to come together and provided support. The care that we are showing this family now will undoubtedly help them with their pain,” said Michelle.
John said that he must speak now about the violence that has impacted his family. His grief is being replaced with the desire to speak for Amaia now that she can’t.
“Amaia’s life has been sacrificed but I know that she loved the Lord and she was saved. I want people to know that at a young age she knew Jesus Christ and I know that she is in heaven,” said John.
Even as John mourns the loss of his beautiful little girl, he thinks about supporting others who are going through similar losses. He is also anticipating starting an educational scholarship in Amaia’s name. He is looking for that peaceful place that he can call upon during difficult times and he acknowledges that it will only come through telling her story. Through difficult times that he has experienced in his life he states that he is determined to instill the importance of the responsibility of being a good father to your children. The chapters in life cannot be rewritten but until his last breath, John stated that Amaia’s chapters will never be erased.
Make donations to The Memorial Fund for Amaia Edmond account at any Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.
Editor’s note: On August 4, the Lansing Police Department said that 23-year-old Jerry Brian McKinney may have information about the shooting.
Please contact Detective Brad S. Aubin at 517-483-6862. As of the printing of this edition, there have been no arrests made in this case.
This was originally printed in the August 15, 2010 - August 31, 2010 edition.