Flowers, balloons, homemade butterflies and angels, along with teddy bears and other stuffed toys 4-year-old girls take delight in, now thickly fleck a wire fence near Fulton—and likely always will.
It just took a few days for the short, precious life of 4-year-old Maleah Davis to unite the sorrow-filled hearts of people from Fulton—a town of a few hundred, with people from Houston—city of a few million.
That union took place near that toy-decorated fence Saturday near Interstate 30's Fulton No. 18 Exit. There, at least 300 to 350 southwest Arkansas residents along with at least 21 people from Houston, gathered somberly to express heart-felt love for little Maleah—a child most local residents may have never known, but nevertheless accepted as one of their own.
"We just wanted to show this little girl was loved,"said Melissa Owens, of Hope, Ark., who helped organized the memorial service and remembrance walk for Maleah near the exit.
"My heart aches when things like this happen," said former Tollette, Ark., Mayor Martha Hendrix. It is just so sad."
Just a few yards north of the toy-speckled fence, authorities found Maleah's remains May 31. The search for the little girl started 28 days earlier in Houston. Maleah's mother's ex-fiance, Derion Vence,27, has since been arrested in connection with the child's death.
Houston resident Carolyn Thompson, who came along with 20 other Houston residents, said that they, as a group, were traveling north to be at a church service Sunday in Little Rock.
"Before we left early this morning (Saturday morning) we had heard that there would be memorial service for Maleah, right here and sure enough, we found it," Thompson said.
Jesse Hill, pastor for the local Charity Baptist Church, said Maleah came to the area in a tragic way, but she will never be forgotten.
"We had someone here we didn't even know, and, yet, she touched all of our hearts," he said. "Grief is like unspent love—you want to give it to someone who is gone, but you just don't know how."
Local resident Laura Beth Martin said that people in the Fulton area have taken Maleah into their hearts.
"The last part of of verse 35 in the Book of Luke, says that 'a sword will pierce your own soul' and that is the way we feel here in Fulton," she said. "We have felt this violent act like it's been a sword that has pierced into us, but it has given us a love for a child we didn't know. Let us take this love we have for Maleah and funnel it into the community for our children."
Revel Kid, pastor for the Spring Hill Christian Church, encouraged parents to hold their children close and protect them.
"We can't even imagine what this little girl went through," he said. "The enemy is running wild today, and that enemy is the devil himself. Don't trust the safety of your children to just anyone. Our hearts have been heavy with this tragedy, but what a beautiful angel Heaven gained when little Maleah went home."