VANCOUVER — Family and friends of Aaliyah Rosa wept Tuesday as they filed into the sanctuary at Christian Life Assembly in Langley to say goodbye to the seven-year-old who was slain on July 22.
In the front row, a young girl wearing a kitten-ear headband sobbed. Teddy bears and a small stuffed monkey sat on stage, alongside pink roses and photos of Aaliya with her arms wrapped around her father Steve.
Mourners wore bright pink and purple ribbons, Aaliyah’s favourite colours.
Aaliyah was found dead in an apartment in the 20000-block of 68th Avenue on July 22. A 36-year-old woman was also at the apartment in need of medical care. Police have not confirmed the woman’s identity.
Cpl. Frank Jang of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which is investigating the death as a possible homicide, said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing. IHIT is urging members of the public that may have information to “please come forward.”
Pastor Bill Ashbee called Aaliyah’s death “a puzzling, evil act,” before reading the 23rd Psalm.
Ashbee addressed Aaliyah’s father directly, saying, “There are no adequate answers to something that should not have happened.”
Aaliyah was remembered by her Montessori pre-school teachers as a child who “oozed curiosity” and was “too smart for her own good.”
Aaliyah was charismatic and wild and loved everyone, said her daycare provider Sarah, who added that, “It was impossible to stay mad at her.”
Trish Wright, another one of Aaliyah’s caregivers, struggled to compose herself before sharing her memories of the little girl she had cared for since she was a toddler.
“With her larger-than-life personality, Aaliyah had a huge impact on the children in our care,” said Wright. “You couldn’t help but be attracted to her energy.”
Aaliyah was independent, but always the first to rush to help another child who had been hurt, said Wright. She also defended her Hot Wheels from the boys: “She stood her ground for what she believed to be her truth,” said Wright.
Every morning after Steve dropped Aaliyah off at daycare, she would always ask her father for one last hug. “Daddy, please one more hug. Daddy, please one more hug. And Steve would always give it to her. Aaliyah was a hugger, and a Daddy’s girl,” said Wright.
Nadia Causley, the mother of Aaliyah’s best friend Stella, said Aaliyah had become a part of her family, “our rambunctious fourth child.”
Aaliyah was “a true free spirit,” a “full tilt girl” who was remarkably outgoing, and danced to a rhythm that was “a little faster than what we were used to.”
Causley alluded to difficulties in Aaliya’s home life: “You take a high energy kid, too bright to want to listen, and add in a bit of adversity on the home front, and you expect some trouble. But not her,” said Causley.
Causley lauded Aaliya’s father, and the Rosa family as a “bedrock of love.”
At the end of the service, her father approached the stage and picked up the small stuffed monkey that sat next to Aaliyah’s picture.