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A year later, friends in Tampa memorialize slain Brito children

TAMPA — Judy Brito stood under a tent in her former neighbor's driveway and listened to friends of her children share memories.

It was one year ago Tuesday that Kiara, 16, and Jeremi, 13, were fatally shot in a home invasion robbery at the Brito home that shocked a community.

More than 50 people gathered outside a house at 3022 W Van Buren St., across from where the Britos lived, to remember the teens during a candlelight vigil.

"I wanted to be here because last time they held a vigil I was in the hospital with my son," Judy Brito, 33, said. Jeremi died June 6, 2011 —one day after his sister.

Judy Brito was emotional as rain punctuated the sadness sweeping over the crowd.

Pastor Ron Satterwhite of the First Baptist Church of Tampa said the children's deaths were a reminder of finiteness of life.

"Their light is still there," Satterwhite said. "I can see some of you standing out there in the rain with your candles and they are still burning."

Satterwhite has helped Brito organize and administer her charity, the Kiara and Jeremi Brito Foundation, that has raised $11,000. Ultimately, Brito would like it to serve as a scholarship foundation. So far, the money has gone to scholarships, an Easter egg hunt and Christmas gifts for children in need, Brito said.

Neighbor Kayla Knowlton, 14, told the crowd she remembered how Kiara was always beautiful and would never go anywhere with her hair out of place. Jeremi was a bright, positive personality who was always drinking a Capri Sun, she said.

The Madison Middle eighth grader said in a prepared speech the outpouring of support is to let Kiara and Jeremi "know we wish they were here."

Kiara's former teammates from Robinson High School's girl's basketball team came to the vigil with their coach, Jessica Vitale, in T-shirts with her name and number 31.

"We took her jersey with us to every game to make it feels like she was always with us," said point guard Beverly Devine, 17. "She would have been the only senior on the team this year."

Last June, Tampa police arrested and charged two men in connection with the murders: Tavari Grant, now 19, and Charles Stephan Waits, now 20. Judy Brito said she didn't know them, but people have told her they had been to her home before.

"Kiara did tattoos and I used to cook for her friends," she said. "My kids had a lot of friends because they were always smiling and happy. They were loved."

Both men have a status hearing July 2 in Hillsborough County Court, said state attorney's office spokesman Mark Cox.

Their trials and possible punishment can't come fast enough for Brito.

"I hope they get life in prison without the possibility of parole," she said. "I hope they live each day miserable, just like I am."

A year later, friends in Tampa memorialize slain Brito children 06/05/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 11:57pm]
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