1 of 6
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Carlos Menchaca, an uncle of Maria Del Carmen Menchaca, stands with his wife, Kathy, and son, Anthony, at the memorial to the slain 7-year-old.

Through lips that barely moved, they spoke in Spanish as she repeated the rosary over and over.

Carmen Santos likely would have preferred to pray inside her home Monday evening, but a friend said she should come to the corner. "This is where it happened," Rosina Velasquez told her.

On the corner of 800 West and Fremont Avenue (1100 South), a memorial of candles, stuffed animals, flowers and handwritten condolences had been built throughout the day. At its center sat a picture of Santos' daughter, dressed in pink, staring back with her big brown eyes.

Maria Del Carmen Menchaca, 7, was the little girl everyone called Mari.

She was the little girl who walked with her mother each day to Riley Elementary, where she acted shy around her older "reading buddy."

Mari was the polite girl who took her shoes off at neighbors' homes when she went door to door selling Avon with her mother.

"She was very lovable and beautiful and loved by everyone," Santos said through a translator. "Everyone loves her in school. All of her cousins and uncles and aunts love her."

She painted pictures for her family and liked to crack jokes.

"She was so funny," said Gabriella Pimentel, the girl's second-cousin.

Monday morning, a kindergarten girl, accompanied by her mother and two siblings, placed a tall clear plastic angel on the corner.

"She really, really liked to play with me," Josalie Garcia Avila said. The two of them would play tag together in the park.

Mari liked to roller-skate and jump rope and play in front of her house. That's where she was when she was gunned down by suspected gang members Sunday evening in a drive-by shooting.

A day after the shooting, more than 30 friends and family members stood on the corner where Mari was shot and killed. They gathered in the evening for the first night of a nine-day rosary novena.

Nine days of prayer and healing. Nine days of tears and despair. Nine days — and then forever after that.

Together, on the corner where Mari died, the group repeated the rosary for several minutes, a family and a community asking Mary to "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."

"This is prayer," said Velasquez, who organized the rosary. "Prayer is very powerful, and prayer is what we all need now.

"We're hoping to change things around and show that there are good people and that things can change for the better. For the sake of the children."


Contributing: Pat Reavy

E-mail: afalk@desnews.com