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Memorial service honors slain Tampa siblings

Robinson High basketball players weep during the memorial service for their teammate Kiara Brito and her brother Jeremi Brito at the First Baptist Church of Port Tampa on Friday.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Robinson High basketball players weep during the memorial service for their teammate Kiara Brito and her brother Jeremi Brito at the First Baptist Church of Port Tampa on Friday.

TAMPA — The siblings left indelible marks, one with her artistry, the other with a precociousness that charmed teachers and the upright bass.

Reminders of Kiara and Jeremi Brito, teens fatally shot Sunday, were written everywhere Friday during a memorial service that drew about 500 to the First Baptist Church of Port Tampa. Their names were printed on T-shirts and uttered through heavy sobs in a church so packed that some mourners sat in the choir's pews behind the pulpit.

The Robinson High School girls basketball team wore black shirts with Kiara's initials and her No. 31 jersey number printed on them. Beneath many shirts, Kiara, 16, had left a more permanent monument: Tattoos. Butterflies, roses, initials, neighborhood names — her work could be seen on the skin of many mourners.

"She was just as talented an artist as she was a beautiful person," said Sarah Newton, 17, whose calf bears the words "Port Tampa" that Kiara inscribed.

She loved drawing, painting her bedroom walls with graffiti art, her friends said. But that was only a part of her. She was a good athlete with a 4.0 GPA and took Advanced Placement classes. She shopped at Hollister Co., owned tons of shoes and always upgraded to the newest pair of Air Jordans.

"Some of us remember Kiara as a diva," high school friend Justin Madison told mourners. She begged her basketball coach not to hold Saturday practices so she wouldn't mess up her hair for the weekend.

She always worked out to stay in shape, friend and neighbor Alicia Castillo, 19, said. She loved her boyfriend and joked about how she just wanted to be taken care of by her mom for the rest of her life.

Teachers said Jeremi Brito, 13, was a boy who loved to take care of them. He was Madison Middle School teacher Elizabeth Burnett's "little helper," who always asked her about her weekend and brought her a sea shell after his first cruise. When Burnett talked about looking for new furniture, Jeremi bragged about buying his own bedroom furniture and told her the right stores to visit. A bass player, he was the "heartbeat" of the school orchestra.

"Charismatic, bright, happy and funny," she said.

He cheered up classmates on the bus every grumpy morning.

"He always made me smile when I'm mad," said Suki Seal, 14.

As testimonies rang out during the service and teens duetting Aaliyah's Miss You faltered under the strain, the slain teens' mother, Judy Brito, sat in the front row with her head constantly resting on the shoulder of Kiara's boyfriend. For much of the service, sunglasses hid her eyes.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Memorial service honors slain Tampa siblings 06/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 10, 2011 10:28pm]
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