Vigil focuses on justice for Marciana Ringo

First night of Kwanzaa, prayers are devoted to protecting city's children

December 27, 2002|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Neighbors and relatives gathered last night, the first night of Kwanzaa, to pray for justice in the killing of 8-year-old Marciana Ringo.

The first night of Kwanzaa is umoja, which means unity, said Eric Easton, a community activist from Reservoir Hill who organized the vigil.

"We are united today in our quest to make sure children are safe in Baltimore," Easton said.

About 30 people gathered on the median of the 5200 block of Loch Raven Blvd., across the street from Northwood Elementary School, where Marciana was a pupil.

This was the second vigil held to remember Marciana, whose body was discovered Dec. 12 in a wooded lot near a residential area in Harford County.

She had been reported missing more than a week before. Police believe that Jamal Kenneth Abeokuto of the 5200 block W. North Ave., then the boyfriend of Marciana's mother, Milagro White, was the last person to see Marciana alive.

Police took Abeokuto into custody on a misdemeanor handgun charge. He disappeared after posting bail Dec. 7.

Arrested in Alabama

A week later, authorities charged him with state counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and extortion, as well as federal charges of extortion.

He was arrested in an Alabama motel Tuesday after a long standoff with negotiators.

Because of the capture of a suspect in the case, participants in last night's vigil for Marciana felt their prayers had worked, and hoped they would work again in bringing justice.

At a similar gathering on Dec. 17, attendees hoped that authorities would locate Abeokuto.

Last night, some prayed that prosecutors would seek the death penalty in the case, because "last week we prayed for Marciana and our prayers were answered," Easton said.

"We want the full measure of the law brought to bear on" Abeokuto, Easton said. "We want justice to rain down on him like a river."

Sharon Lindsey, who organized an early search for Marciana, agreed.

"We all feel as though the law shouldn't have allowed [Abeokuto] to be released in the first place," she said.

She leaned a red rose against a tree planted in the median. Stuffed animals were lined up in Marciana's memory around its base, held in place by a strip of duct tape.

`One of my children'

"Even though Marciana was not related to me, she's still one of my children," said Northwood resident Ashanti Babb. "I know her spirit is finally going to be able to rest because he is caught."

Wayne Shorts, also a Northwood resident, said he came to the vigil because his daughter was born two days after Marciana was reported missing.

He said he thought life in prison would be appropriate for her killer because the child's death was "the maximum punishment for the family, for the mother."

During the vigil, Lindsey implored parents "to love your children, no matter what."

Participants passed out a petition to rename the 5200 block of Loch Raven Blvd., which includes Northwood Elementary School, "Marciana Ringo Way."

Easton said Marciana used to cross the median from her home to go to school. "We're standing on hallowed ground," he said.

Easton said he and other people had contacted elected officials to get the Amber Alert system - or "Marci-amber" system, as one vigil participant said it should be called - installed in Maryland.

The system, in effect in 31 states, uses state highway message boards to provide information soon after a child is reported missing.

It was a difficult holiday for members of Marciana's family.

"I think it will be a long time before we can have a good Christmas again," said Delores Howell, Marciana's great-aunt.

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