Police tape ribbons still hung over a field in eastern Kansas City as several dozen people gathered Friday night to release balloons in memory of Kha’liya Bridgewater, who was found dead at 6 months old over Mother’s Day weekend in nearby wooded area.
Kha’liya’s uncle, Randall Lammers, 30, said he was moved by the crowd of several dozen people who showed up to remember such a young life.
“She was loved. She was adored,” says Lammers, who has two young children of her own.
Robin Davis, 62, Kha’liya’s great-grandmother by marriage, said she was still “stunned”.
“It’s hard for us to figure this out… we can’t get a clear enough answer from anyone to find out what the truth is, and we just really want to know the truth,” she said.
On May 13, the Kansas City Police Department received a call about the body of a baby found decomposing in a field near a wooded area.
Police on Thursday identified the victim as Kha’liya. The case is still under investigation as police wait for the medical examiner to determine her cause of death. The case is classified as a death investigation, led by homicide detectives. No other information has been released.
“You can’t process it if you don’t know it,” Kha’liya’s grandmother, Ruthann Hickman, 46, said at Friday’s vigil. “I just want to know. We’re just about ready to start healing, and figuring out what happened is part of that process.
According to an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant, Kansas City detectives suspected Kha’liya may have died in an apartment several days before her body was disposed of.
A witness told detectives the baby’s mother told them she woke up one day to find the child “blue in the face,” and said police and emergency services had been called to the apartment. She also asked for money to pay for a cremation.
Detectives said the 6-month-old baby’s death was never reported.
Another witness reported at the end of April that a “terrible” smell came from the woman’s apartment.
Detectives have since interviewed Kha’liya’s mother, who, according to court documents, initially “denyed ever having a baby girl” before saying she actually did.
The woman told police her daughter was last seen alive in her Squier Park apartment on May 4. That night, she said, her boyfriend told her the baby was choking and held her to his chest. She said he later told her she was asleep.
An hour later, she told detectives she found the baby with her eyes open and her arms folded against her chest. She said she didn’t call 911 because her phone was broken, according to court documents. The next day, she said, she saw her boyfriend strap the dead child into a car seat and leave.
Kha’liya’s body was eventually found in a field with two kitchen waste bags under and around her legs, court records show. A baby blanket and a small yellow headband lay on the floor nearby.
“We don’t know how to handle this. You know, you can’t run away from it, you can’t sleep from it. None of it works,’ said Lammers, Kha’liya’s uncle. “They say it gets easier, but that’s a lie. But we have to try for her.”
She was only six months old, she still had so much to live and hopefully will do it through us, in our own way.”
Family set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Kha’liya’s funeral. As of Friday night, it collected nearly $3,500 in donations.