`Oh, I can't stop the tears for Elijah'

Family, friends honor 3-year-old killed by pickup truck

December 15, 2006|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,sun reporter

A few feet from the small, white casket that held her grandson's body, the woman sat in a wheelchair, her arm in a sling, and wept.

Marjorie Thomas had been pushing her 3-year-old grandson, Elijah Cozart, in a stroller near his Baltimore County home when a pickup truck struck them both. The driver did not stop, and the truck dragged the boy in his stroller for nearly a mile. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Yesterday, as friends and family members gathered for Elijah's funeral, they spoke of trying to see God's plan in his death. Their voices cracking, relatives shared memories of the little boy and read poems written in his honor.

"To know Elijah, you had to be there the day he was born with his arms spread open wide, praising everything God had to give him," said his father, Kevin Cozart. "He changed my life, my wife's life and the life of all of our family."

Elijah was a precocious child who called heading off to nursery school "going to work," his father told the crowd of more than 200 mourners who had gathered at Carter Memorial Church of God in Christ in West Baltimore. He would comfort his younger sister, Kylie, when she cried, and thanked his father when he picked him up from school.

Cozart spoke of reading the story of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" to his son the night before the accident.

"Then he said, `Daddy, rub my back,'" he said, recounting their conversation. "So I rubbed his back and then he went to sleep."

"I still feel him next to me," he said. "Right here, on my right side."

His wife, Marsha Cozart, said that her son had given her the best three years of her life.

"You were afraid of monsters at night," she said, addressing the boy. "But nobody knew they existed in the day. Now you are in a place where no monsters exist."

At a viewing in a Parkville funeral home Wednesday evening, friends and family members knelt and prayed by the boy's body, which was dressed in a white suit.

Two photo displays showed Elijah crawling in the grass, playing in a pumpkin patch and sitting on a sculpture of a lion with his parents and sister. Other photos showed Elijah as a newborn, wearing a blue-and-white cap and resting in his mother's arms.

On Dec. 1, Thomas and Elijah were crossing Goucher Boulevard, when they were struck by a red Dodge Ram pickup truck, according to police. Thomas was sideswiped, but Elijah's blue stroller became lodged under the truck. The truck dragged the stroller, with the child trapped inside, to Regester Avenue, according to police charging documents.

Elijah appeared to be conscious and was gasping for air when rescuers found him, court records say. He was later pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital. His 55-year-old grandmother was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Lazara Arellano de Hogue, 40, was arrested soon after the accident in her home in the Drumcastle Apartments, off York Road near the city-county line. She is charged with leaving the scene of an accident. She acknowledged that she saw a woman with a stroller and that she felt something hit her vehicle, according to charging documents.

She told police that she could not stop because the stroller prevented her from braking. She said that she stopped on Regester Avenue, removed the empty stroller from under her truck and drove on, according to charging documents. Last week, Arellano de Hogue was freed on $250,000 bond.

If convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, she could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, prosecutors said. A charge of vehicular manslaughter, which carries a more severe penalty, could be filed in the coming weeks, pending the outcome of the investigation, prosecutors said.

But yesterday, mourners did not mention the accused. Instead, they celebrated Elijah's life and expressed their certainty that he was in heaven.

Many embraced Thomas, who sat with her leg propped up and her arm in a cast.

She sobbed loudly as mourners filed past her grandson's casket, then quieted as the congregation began to sing "Amazing Grace."

Later, she sang a song that she had written for her grandson.

"Oh, I can't stop the tears for Elijah," she sang. "Oh I can't stop the sea, Elijah. ... He's gone, gone forevermore."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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