HARVEY, La. -- Near the apartment where 6-year-old Ahlittia North was last seen, a memorial grows. Hundreds of people, shaken by Ahlittia’s gruesome murder, have delivered stuffed animals, notes, balloons and pictures.
And hundreds of people gathered in front of the memorial for multiple candlelight vigils in Ahlittia’s memory.
Most in attendance had never met Ahlittia, but were touched by news of her disappearance Saturday and horrified when her body was found in a dumpster early Monday morning.
“Her life was cut short. Like I say, I have three grand babies of my own, I couldn't go to work today, I was just destroyed,” said Sharlene Pierce, who lives in the nearby Woodmere subdivision.
Ahlittia’s mother, Lisa North, was inconsolable at an afternoon prayer vigil Tuesday night.
“Why did they have to take my baby?” she cried. “My baby don’t mess with nobody.”
Many showed up at later vigils to show support for Ahlittia’s grieving mother.
“I just pray that God will give her peace and that she be strong and that she'll just hold on and she'll be alright,” said Veronica Poole.
“The family sees that everybody's with them, they're not alone. It's hard to be alone at a time like this,” said Westwego Councilman Glenn Green, who organized one of Tuesday’s vigils.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said Ahlittia was abducted in her sleep in the early hours of Saturday morning, then brutally murdered.
After days of searching, detectives found Ahlittia stabbed to death inside a dumpster near her apartment around midnight Tuesday. Investigators said there was no obvious sign of sexual assault, but are still investigating.
Detectives said they found a pool of blood Saturday behind an abandoned fourplex at 2836 Destrehan Ave. Around 10:30 p.m. Monday, DNA test results confirmed the blood was Ahlittia’s.
The location is seven doors down from the apartment where Ahlittia was staying with her mother, stepfather and two younger siblings.
It is two buildings away from the apartment where the prime murder suspect, Matthew Flugence, lived.
Flugence is also wanted for the alleged sexual battery of an 11-year-old in the spring. He is the nephew of Ahlittia’s stepfather and has babysat the 6-year-old in the past.
“It feel like a nightmare, that's how I feel,” said Ahlittia’s stepfather, Albert Hill.
Hill said he didn’t realize Flugence was suspected in an unrelated sexual battery case, and that he hadn’t spoken with his nephew in a week or two.
“If I'd have known that he'd have never been around my family at all, family or no family at all,” said Hill.
Hill said he spoke to another nephew, Russell Flugence, on Sunday, and he gave no indication he had information on Ahlittia’s death.
Russell Flugence has since been arrested and charged with obstruction of justice. Officials believe he had critical information and did not come forward.
Family members said Ahlittia lived in Donaldsonville with her cousin, and was just visiting her mother and stepfather for the summer. She arrived in Harvey in late May.
And as Ahlittia's grieving family continues to search for solace, so too does the community.
The Crimestoppers reward for information leading to Flugence’s arrest and indictment has increased to $6,500.
Call the anonymous Crimestoppers line at (504) 822-1111 if you know something that could help investigators.