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updated: 7/31/2014 7:31 PM

150 strangers, 1 uncle lay starved Barrington baby to rest

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  • Video: Mya Edwards' Funeral

  • Barrington firefighters and police officers place roses on the casket of 7-month-old Mya Edwards during her burial Thursday at Evergreen Cemetery.

       Barrington firefighters and police officers place roses on the casket of 7-month-old Mya Edwards during her burial Thursday at Evergreen Cemetery.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • A picture of 7-month-old Mya Edwards sits on the altar during her funeral Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington.

       A picture of 7-month-old Mya Edwards sits on the altar during her funeral Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Joaquin Edwards, the uncle of 7-month-old Mya Edwards, is consoled at the girl's gravesite by the Rev. Bernie Pietrzak, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington.

       Joaquin Edwards, the uncle of 7-month-old Mya Edwards, is consoled at the girl's gravesite by the Rev. Bernie Pietrzak, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Pallbearers carry the casket of 7-month-old Mya Edwards, who starved to death in January, into St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington before her funeral Thursday.

       Pallbearers carry the casket of 7-month-old Mya Edwards, who starved to death in January, into St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington before her funeral Thursday.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Mya Edwards, a 7-month-old girl who starved to death in January, is laid to rest Thursday during a ceremony in Barrington. The funeral was organized by a suburban nonprofit group and Barrington officials.

       Mya Edwards, a 7-month-old girl who starved to death in January, is laid to rest Thursday during a ceremony in Barrington. The funeral was organized by a suburban nonprofit group and Barrington officials.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Barrington community members gathered Thursday to bury Mya Edwards, a 7-month-old girl who starved to death in January. The girl's uncle was among the mourners.

       Barrington community members gathered Thursday to bury Mya Edwards, a 7-month-old girl who starved to death in January. The girl's uncle was among the mourners.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Mya Edwards, a 7-month-old girl who starved to death in January, is laid to rest Thursday during a ceremony in Barrington. The funeral was organized by a suburban nonprofit group and Barrington officials.

       Mya Edwards, a 7-month-old girl who starved to death in January, is laid to rest Thursday during a ceremony in Barrington. The funeral was organized by a suburban nonprofit group and Barrington officials.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Mourners gathered at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington for the funeral of 7-month-old Mya Edwards. The infant was found dead from starvation in a Barrington apartment early this year.

       Mourners gathered at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington for the funeral of 7-month-old Mya Edwards. The infant was found dead from starvation in a Barrington apartment early this year.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

As a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" Thursday morning in the back corner of a Barrington cemetery, Susan Walker handed a pink balloon to Barrington police Detective Lori Allsteadt while they stood together near the tiny white casket of a 7-month-old girl neither knew.

Allsteadt, who came to know Mya Edwards only while investigating her death, gave the balloon a farewell kiss and let it fly away into the sunny skies overhead.

"It was great for me to be able to do," she would later say. "It kind of was like the release on this whole thing."

About 150 people, including 30 members of the Barrington police and fire departments, joined Walker and Allsteadt on Thursday to mourn the baby girl who in January starved to death in a dark basement apartment in Barrington.

Jim Pauwels, a deacon from the Archdiocese of Chicago, eulogized Mya from the pulpit at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington. He asked mourners not to dwell on the bewilderment and anger they feel when hearing Mya's tragic story.

"When we're confronted with a case of innocence suffering, a case of death coming where there should have been life and growth and promise, it's not possible to not react," Pauwels said.

Mya's parents, Gene Edwards, 22, and Markisa Jones, 19, have pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment stemming from the girl's death. According to court documents, Mya and her surviving twin sister, Mia, were taken off formula and fed bottles filled only with water, cereal and baby food.

Every part of Thursday's service for Mya was donated, including her coffin, the large arrangement of pink roses atop it and the plot in which she was buried. The service was planned by Wheeling-based Rest in His Arms, which organizes funerals for abandoned or slain children.

Walker, the group's founder, said Mya's funeral is the 33rd she's helped organize since 2005.

Among the crowd gathered in the church and later at Evergreen Cemetery for Mya's funeral, there was just one person who knew Mya when she was alive.

Joaquin Edwards, the girl's uncle, said he and his family learned of the planned burial through media reports Wednesday.

"I am grateful for this service for my niece," Edwards, 21, said. "I just wish my family was involved and everything."

Walker embraced Edwards at Mya's burial site and handed him a Minnie Mouse doll to lay next to the rose-covered casket before it was placed in the earth. Edwards put the first shovelful of dirt into the grave.

"I feel very pleased and at ease to know that she is buried," Edwards said before breaking down into tears and walking away.

The funeral procession was led by five Barrington police cars. A ladder truck from Barrington Fire brought up the rear. Chris Alioto, a Bolingbrook firefighter, offered to play his bagpipes at the ceremony after reading about Mya's story on Facebook.

Walker said she received a great deal of support from police and fire officials while organizing of the services. Every police officer and firefighter who was on call Jan. 8, the day Mya was found dead, attended Thursday's services.

"We wanted to be able to give closure to the first responders," Walker said.

Det. Sgt. Kevin Croke, the lead investigator in Mya's case, said he felt better after the service.

"It's not common you get this kind of closure in this kind of case," he said.

Croke served as a pallbearer along with his investigation partner, Allsteadt, Police Chief Dave Dorn and Sgt. Keith Wrzala, who was the first officer to enter the basement apartment and find Mya's body.

"We were able to show this young girl who wasn't loved in life and abandoned in death that she was loved," Croke said.

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