Vigil held on anniversary of Jorelys Rivera's disappearance

by: Carl Willis Updated:

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CANTON, Ga. - The Canton community stopped to remember Jorelys Rivera on the anniversary of the 7-year-old’s disappearance.

Dec. 2, 2011 was the start of the nightmare that continues to haunt Jorelys' mother, Jocelyn Rivera.

Channel 2's Carl Willis asked her if time has helped to heal her heart.

Rivera simply replied, "No," before shedding a tear.

Jorelys' aunt, Veronica Jennings, said the murder of her bright-eyed niece is as painful as the day she received the news.

"I'm healing a little bit, but it's something that's going to be there forever," Jennings said. “Especially the way she was gone."

Jorelys was last seen at her apartment's playground. That's when she encountered the apartment's groundskeeper, 20-year-old Ryan Brunn.

Brunn would later plead guilty to her murder, testifying that he enticed Jorelys to an apartment before murdering her and dumping her body in a trash compactor. Brunn committed suicide in jail shortly after pleading guilty and being sentenced to life in prison.

Sunday night, Jocelyn Rivera held her two remaining children, Jorelys’ younger sisters, as the Canton community surrounded her family in support.

"Not to focus on the death of her child, but to be a focus on the celebration of her life," said family friend Bianca Cummings. "That she actually did live and that she was here and that she mattered. She was important. She was very loved."

Steps are being taken to make sure Jorelys' legacy will not fade.
 
Canton Police Chief Robert Merchant told Willis the department took a long look at how it responds to missing children calls made changes.

"There's a sense of urgency," Merchant said. "I think the mindset has changed, there's a very detailed checklist not only for the responding officers but for the investigators to follow as well."

Canton resident Amy Turcotte told Willis she will be leading an effort to get Canton's next park named after Jorelys.

A new program has also been instituted in Canton that helps children deal with stranger danger. The founder says it gained full support in wake of this tragedy that stunned metro Atlanta.

"It means a lot that we still have the support of the community," said Jennings.