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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Jack Darger,5, is held by his mother, Emma, during a vigil to show support for the family of Sierra Newbold at West Jordan Elementary School on Friday, June 29, 2012. Sierra Newbold was found dead in a canal near her West Jordan home Tuesday.
It's an unbelievable thing. We can't hardly get our heads around it. You try to figure what and you don't get an answer. I can't understand how anyone can do something like this to a little girl — or anybody. —Sierra's grandmother Frances Newbold

WEST JORDAN — It's hard to put into words what the loss of a bright-eyed, 6-year-old girl with freckles can do to her family.

One day, Sierra Newbold is dancing and dressing up in "fairy costumes" with her kid sister and the next day, she's gone.

"You don't even know hardly how to feel or think — it just upsets your whole world," Sierra's grandmother Frances Newbold said Friday.

"The first day was just so devastating. ... You finally dry up. You run out of tears."

As police investigate what happened to Sierra before she was sexually assaulted, killed and left in a canal near her home, her grandmother said she takes comfort in knowing that whatever cruel acts led to the child's death are over now.    

"We know where she is now and we're happy that she's out of any misery or pain she could have experienced. We miss her so much," Newbold told the Deseret News. "She was a vivacious little girl ... full of life."

That life was remembered Friday at a viewing in anticipation of Saturday's funeral, and at a candlelight vigil attracting about 200 people to Sierra's neighborhood school, only blocks away from the home from which she was taken.

Patty Belleso came to the vigil with her family "to show support because we have little ones too," she said. "Nobody deserved that. I don't think it's fair what happened to her."

The support for Sierra exhibited Friday was also laced with the fear that remains in the neighborhood.

"I know that people are afraid to let their kids go out, me being one of them," said Sharan Dawn Kanniainen. "I lock my doors during the day now. I won't let my kids go out," she said.

Just before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, family members called police to report that the girl was missing from her home at 2383 W. 7095 South. Officers started searching the area and soon found her dead in a nearby canal.

West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond declined to provide details about her condition, but said there was "not a significant amount of trauma on the body." An autopsy later concluded her death was a homicide and that she'd been sexually assaulted.

"It's an unbelievable thing," Newbold said. "We can't hardly get our heads around it. You try to figure what and you don't get an answer. I can't understand how anyone can do something like this to a little girl — or anybody."

Sierra's family is a close one and has come together in the wake of her death, but they have been buffered up by the support of their neighbors and others in the community. The family's LDS bishop, Vaughn Shosted, said Sierra's death has united their ward and those in the neighborhood.

"The thing that I'm just totally impressed with is the community around — how they've gathered and tried to help with service and prayers and whatever they can do," Bishop Shosted said. "They just want to do something to help this poor family."

He broke down as he described Sierra as "one of our beautiful Primary children" who will be greatly missed.

"We had a prayer here at the ward," he said Friday. "We had 300 to 400 people here just wanting to do something. They've planted flowers and cleaned their yard and hung ribbons all over the neighborhood to help us remember her."

The prayer meeting was supposed to last 15 minutes. It went for hours. There was praying, but there was a lot of hugging and comforting as well, Bishop Shosted said.

Her death, he said, has been "the worst thing" that has happened to the ward in his five years as bishop, but he's glad to be there to help the family. They are distraught, but holding together, he said.

Tonya Nielson walked the neighborhood streets Friday with her daughter, Sage, to let residents know about the nighttime vigil at West Jordan Elementary School. Sage donated her own money to help pay for the fliers and mused that "this probably isn't half of what we need" as they posted them.

"I'm proud of her, but at the same time, I am stunned," Nielson said. "I can't wrap my head around what this family is going through. It just breaks my heart."

Sage said she didn't know Sierra, but they went to the same school. She said she knew that a little girl died and that they were going to light candles for her, to remember her.

"So many members of the neighborhood and community want to express their grief, whether they knew Sierra or the Newbolds personally," Nielson said. "This is a tragedy that affects the whole community."

A funeral will be held for the girl at 11 a.m. Saturday at the LDS West Jordan 27th Ward, 2666 W. 7000 South.

For those wanting to donate to Sierra's family, an account has been set up at America First Credit Union under Sierra Newbold Memorial Account.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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