The little girl never reached her 4th birthday.
She was found decapitated in a wooded area of Kansas City in April 2001 and became known as “Precious Doe.” The Kansas City community rallied for years to bring her justice. She was later identified as 3-year-old Erica Green, and her mother and stepfather were convicted of her murder.
On Monday, several dozen residents gathered at Hibbs Park to hold a birthday party for Erica, complete with cake and balloons. Erica would have turned 20 on Monday, had she lived. Her body was found not far from the park, in a vacant lot near 59th Street and Kensington Avenue.
The party was organized by the Precious Doe Committee, an organization formed to memorialize Erica. Several of the committee members were among those residents who, 16 years ago, combed the neighborhood for clues and canvassed houses for witnesses after Erica’s body was found.
Earlier Monday, the group placed flowers on Erica’s grave at Memorial Park Cemetery.
“When we took this on, we said we’d never let the memory of her die,” committee member Marcie Williams said. “She doesn’t have family here, so we’re her family. KC is her family.”
Retired Kansas City police detective David Bernard, who investigated Erica’s death, said the case brought the community and the Police Department together. At times, during the investigation, Bernard went home and set a place at his dinner table for Erica.
“It was a long, five years of investigation and heartbreaking work,” Bernard said. “We all worked together to solve that case.”
Many at Monday’s gathering noted that, since Erica’s death, Kansas City has continued to lose children to violence. A few specifically pointed to the Friday afternoon shooting death of another 3-year-old, Marcus Haislip III. The boy was killed when someone shot up the car he was riding in with his father and uncle.
Missouri State Rep. Brandon Ellington, a Kansas City Democrat, attended Monday’s event for Erica and said the community needs to act to stop that violence.
“A community shouldn’t just come with the loss of a child,” he said. “A community has to come every day.
“When kids — 2 years old, 3 years old, 4 years old — are getting gunned down, and we say nothing? We can’t just blame the shooters, because we’re being complacent. We’re actually co-conspirators.”