CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — She only spent one year on Earth, but the support Jessell Lopez and her family received Thursday night goes well beyond her years.
A mariachi band played as an estimated crowd of 250 people gathered at the Cole Park Amphitheater, many of them approaching Jessell's father, Jesse Lopez, and giving him encouraging words and hugs.
The vigil officially began when Jesse began to speak about his daughter -- choking up at times.
"She didn’t deserve what happened to her," he said. "I really have no words. I can’t really think right now."
He went on to thank those who were in attendance, some of whom have no connection to the Lopez family.
Gloria Ochoa came to the vigil, because she was so shaken by the news of little Jessell's death.
“This is terrible," she said. "It’s really hurting me to hear what they did to that poor innocent child."
Carlos Sanchez is another perfect stranger to the Lopezes, but he's convinced Jessell is now in a better place.
“I feel bad because of the way she died," he said. "But she’s in Heaven right now with the Lord, and that’s the only thing that makes me happy.”
Candles burned and balloons were released.
A soloist sang.
There was a group prayer.
But in the air the thickest was sadness, mostly on Jesse's part, who is dealing with the grief while also trying to explain the situation to his young son -- Jessell's brother.
"My little boy doesn’t really understand what’s going on right now," he said. "But he will."