‘I still ask God why’
It is almost three years since 14-year-old Yetanya Francis was raped, stabbed and burnt while innocently venturing out to buy a meal from a community shop in Arnett Gardens, St Andrew.
But for her mother, 38-year-old Latoya Riley, it has been an eternity haunted by one question — who would want to kill her first-born?
Yetanya, then a student of Kingston Technical High School, was killed by a stab wound to the chest after she went missing on the night of August 23, 2018. Her charred remains were found the following day during a search. Since then, no one has been charged in connection with her killing. Several individuals held for questioning have been released. Some residents reported that they had heard cries for ‘rape’ around the time Yetanya was said to have left her home, while others said they heard screaming.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Sunday morning during the socially distanced annual service organised by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation to mark the beginning of Child Month, a tearful Riley said her daughter, who had wanted to be an entrepreneur and travel the world, would have been 17 this year. She died without the knowledge that her hard work had created the first rung on the ladder of success.
“She took the City and Guilds (credible option to the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exam). She passed all of them with flying colours. We got her results after [she was killed] so she doesn’t know her results. She did about eight and she got them,” Riley shared, her eyes brimming with tears.
Asked how she felt about the fact that no one has been held for her child’s murder, Riley said, “It’s tearing me up inside”, while noting that on the other hand the perpetrator/s being caught and brought to justice would not be of much help.
“It won’t bring her back,” she said.
She, however, would want one occasion with the individual/s responsible.
“I would like to know who did it and why. I still ask God why,” she told the Observer reminiscing on her “very jovial” daughter who was an avid netball player.
Riley said the family has since moved from the community, in a bid to lessen the pain.
“To be around there and to look back on where the incident happened, it’s hard for me. Her dad is holding on, also. It’s my second year laying a wreath,” she said referring to her participation in the annual wreath-laying and memorial exercise.
For Yetanya’s grandmother, Paulette Chin, the youngster who was the first grandchild for the family can never be forgotten.
“I feel sad all the while, remembering her. I was the one who named her Princess as her pet name and I was the one who named her Yetanya, and usually when I go away I always shopped for me and her. I miss a lot of things — talking with her, and so on,” she told the Observer.
In her own search for catharsis she said she has produced a song written in honour of Yetanya, titled We A Feel it, to immortalise her.
“I did a tribute song with a video for her. It was premired at a European reggae festival the same year she died. I went away and came back and I wanted to start a foundation in honour of children who have been raped and killed and even some charity towards her netball team at her school,” Chin told the Observer.
Yetanya is among the list of children who have died violently, whose names are to be added to the Secret Gardens monument. The structure, erected in 2008 in downtown Kingston, has been used to record the names of children who have been killed under tragic conditions starting from 2004. It, however, ran out of space in 2017.
On Sunday, Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation Chief Executive Officer Robert Hill told the Observer that plans are afoot to expand the space so additional names can be placed there.
“I hope it will not go beyond the intersection of King and Tower streets,” he said. “It should go right to the corner where Water Lane intersects Tower Street.”
The monument bears a sculpture of a child’s head with silver tears running down the cheeks. It sits on a black square base on which the names of the children are stencilled.
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