17 people dead after duck boat capsizes at Table Rock Lake

Family and friends strive to remember the best of late Brenlee Gilbert

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ODESSA, Mo. -- A little girl's first birthday party was held at her Odessa grave site on Wednesday evening. Brenlee Gilbert was just 11 weeks old last May when she died after suffering a fractured skull and brain damage.

Lafayette County prosecutors say she was killed by her 24-year-old father, Alex Gilbert.
Gilbert is charged with second-degree murder in her death, but Wednesday was about celebrating the short, but bright life of Brenlee.

It would have been her Brenlee's first birthday on Wednesday, and her mother, 22-year-old Stephanie Hicklin wanted to remind to people that life is short, but even in little time, a long and lasting impression can be made.

At the Odessa grave site, a small cake, iced with pink and purple frosting rested on a plot matching its size. The cake was topped with the number "1" and a big candle that says "1st ". Around the decorated grave, a large gathering of family and friends milled around.

"Do you see anybody else," Hicklin asked everyone as they started the celebration. It was the scene of any typical first birthday.

"We'll give everybody a balloon," Hicklin said to the crowd.

Only at this party, the guest of honor was present only in spirit.

"Well it's not happy, it's kind of sad," said Brenlee's seven-year old cousin Dayton Carpenter.

"You kids going to come up here and sing?" Hicklin asked the kids.

The group sang "Happy Birthday" to the little girl, they say was watching from above.

"I just want everyone to remember her, not the bad part of her story but the short 11 weeks that we all got to have with her," Hicklin said.

According to the medical examiner, the girl had broken bones, bruises, a fractured skull and brain damage. Prosecutors say the injuries were inflicted by her father.

"I just hope to find out the truth in her death. But at the end of the day, nothing's going to bring my child back," Hicklin said.

But Wednesday wasn't about charges against Gilbert.

"I didn't realize how many lives she actually touched," Hicklin said.

This birthday celebration is about what Brenlee brought in just 11 short weeks of life.

"We donated her organs and her kidneys are in a 52-year-old male, was able to save his life. On I-70 we adopted the highway between Grain Valley and Oak Grove," Hicklin said.

At the end of the celebration, dozens of pink, purple and zebra printed balloons were released in Brenlee honor.

"I believe she's always with us," Hicklin said.

Gilbert is still in the Lafayette County jail awaiting trial. Both Gilbert and his father have maintained his innocence.

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