Meagan Thompson, Associated Press
Kynli Mahnke, front center, stands with first-grade classmates. Kynli has led an effort to buy a tombstone for a slain 2-year-old.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The local grave site of a 2-year-old boy slain almost a year ago by the woman watching him doesn't have a headstone.

But someone in town has decided to change that — and she's only 7.

Kynli Mahnke and the young boy went to the same day-care center.

"I was sad he couldn't have one (headstone)," she said.

So for her first-grade Christmas project at Xavier Charter School, Mahnke decided to raise money to properly honor the child, Ashtyn Roger Lynn.

Lynn was smothered Jan. 12 by 22-year-old Elizabeth Miller.

Miller was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced in late November to 10 years in prison, with two years fixed before she's eligible for parole.

When the child died his father was in prison, and Miller said in court last month that she made a "bad choice" by using a compression tactic on the restless child.

Lynn's family has been unable to buy a headstone for the boy, who was buried in Sunset Memorial Park on Kimberly Road.

So Mahnke put jars at businesses around town and raised about half of the $437 needed to buy a headstone.

"Right now we're only about halfway there," said Mahnke's mom, Mindy Sauer.

Jars have been filled with a lot of quarters, some $1 bills and a few $5 bills. Jars are still at Linwood Market and Garibaldi's Mexican Restaurant, Sauer said.

About six businesses let Mahnke leave donation jars at their locations.

But some gas stations and banks wouldn't allow it, Sauer said.

That frustrated the young do-gooder.

"I kind of felt mad," Mahnke said.

She also was upset when one donation jar was stolen. But it was a good learning experience, Sauer said.

"She couldn't believe someone would take the money," Sauer said. "She couldn't understand why some people didn't want to help a little boy."

After all the jars are filled, Sauer will take the money to a local funeral chapel so Lynn's family can pick out a headstone, she said.

Lynn's grandmother, Janet Hochstrasser, had one word for how Mahnke's effort made her feel: "overwhelmed," she said.

Mahnke's project was one of many in Carole Stevens' first-grade class at Xavier. Stevens' students all did something for someone outside their family for Christmas.

Other "Pay it forward" projects included playing guitar at thrift shops, baking cookies for people with cancer, book donations to Safe House, and shoveling snow for neighbors.