Crosses at vigil bear names of nearly 200 metro homicide victims, including 145 in Kansas City in 2017

LEAWOOD, Kan. -- “They shot her four times and they stole her car," Mikell Tolbert's uncle told family of homicide victims gathered at Leawood Baptist Church.

Outside the church, 194 names were placed on crosses. They included Coach's Owner Mike Darby, killed walking his dog on a trail; Lee's Summit Police Officer Thomas Orr, killed dining in Westport; and Srinivas Huchibhotla, killed in an apparent hate crime at Austin's Bar and Grille in Olathe.

Maryanna Pennington’s grandmother brought the cross the church made for her last year and stuck it in the back, signifying the 2016 homicide case remains unsolved.

“This is our second Christmas to be without my granddaughter. The first Christmas was really hard," Janice Clark said.

Pastor Adam Carter has seen the number of crosses increase outside his church every year, more names than stories he could possibly remember of how they were killed.

“That’s when it gets personal. That’s when you think it’s someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s dad, someone’s mom, sister, brother," he said.

Twonta McKeithen’s son Dorron Blackmon was killed March 11 as he sat in his car at a BP gas station.

“We just lost a very important part of our family. It feels unfair," McKeithen said.

She said this week leading up to Christmas has been the hardest since the week he was killed. But being with people who understand her pain, she’ll find a way to be there for the slain man’s small children on Christmas.

“Through prayer, friends and family, and of course God, we’ll be okay. But he’ll never be forgotten," McKeithen said.