KANSAS CITY, Mo. – More than a hundred family, friends and complete strangers kept the spirit of a young mother alive at a candlelight prayer vigil Sunday.
Essence Willoughby’s body was found in a creek earlier this week.
The group huddled in front of Gilbert Memorial AME Church near 37th St. and Topping Ave. to remember the 21-year-old. Her stepfather Jesse Frazier said she was a loving mother of two little boys.
“In the mornings, when we would get up, she would be on her way out of the door with the boys dressed getting them to the bus stop,” he told the crowd.
It was Willoughby’s 3-year-old son who police said led them to her body Tuesday. Family said the boy told them his mom and Willoughby’s boyfriend, 41-year-old Ja Ray were fighting. The boy said dad struck mom.
Family and close friends admit the pair had a troubled relationship, so they asked the crowd to wear purple to signify their stance against domestic violence.
“We don’t want this to happen again and it’s happening a lot with young people and so we really want to impact them,” Terri Harrison, a family friend, said.
Harrison said Willoughby has impacted a number of people, even in her death.
“So many relationships have been reunited within family and friends and church members and so now she has ministered even in her passing, her spirit is here,” Harrison said.
Willoughby’s mother Helen Frazier said even though the reality is painful, she is thankful for swift closure.
“My phone is not ringing anymore. I still send text to her phone and it’s OK. I have to do that. But for now, I’m just going to tell The Lord thank you,” she said.
The only thing family and friends are asking for now is justice for Willoughby.
“We want the person that is guilty of this crime to serve their time and we want to move on from this, we want to move on with our lives,” Harrison said.
Harrison said the family, including the two boys, are seeking therapy to cope with their loss. Jesse Frazier said the boys are doing well.
Police Chief Darryl Forte and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker was also in attendance. Peters-Baker said there are no charges filed in this case. But Ray has been in custody on unrelated charges.
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