SPENCER, Ind. -- Friends and family of 14-month-old Shaylyn Ammerman gathered in Spencer to honor the toddler who was killed in March.
Shaylyn’s legacy now lives on outside the Owen County Courthouse in the form of a bench, inscribed with her name.
The bench was dedicated at a ceremony Saturday evening, focused on sharing memories of Shaylyn’s life and dwelling less on her death.
Family members and friends swapped stories of the toddler being happy and dancing.
“Just a pippy little girl who was always laughing and smiling and loved any kind of music, the jingles on TV commercials,” said Carol Stewart, Shaylyn’s grandmother.
To honor that spirit, they released lanterns and balloons in her favorite color—purple. They also gave plaques to first responders who searched for Shaylyn during the 36 hours after she went missing.
“It won’t bring her back, but hopefully it will help keep here memory alive and well in the community,” said Stewart.
Stewart says the ceremony gave everyone a chance to leave behind the disturbing details of her killing, which police say was carried out by a family friend, Kyle Parker.
“We’ve tried to step back away from it a little bit and concentrate on keeping Shaylyn’s memory and honoring her,” said Stewart.
For several weeks, Shaylyn’s family hasn’t been able to focus much on that. They, the community and law enforcement say they were too shocked and angry.
“It’s a nightmare,” Stewart said. “A nightmare that just won’t stop. No matter where you go, what you do, you just can’t wake up from it.”
Spencer Chief Marshall Richard Foutch is also stuck with the memories. He took the first call about Shaylyn’s abduction.
“It’s a case that we as first responders that we don’t like to work.” Foutch said. “It’s something you’ll never forget.”
As they helped Shaylyn’s family through their grief over the past several weeks, the whole community is now helping them begin to heal.
It’s a process Shaylyn’s family knows will be slow, but they say it will be easier knowing Shaylyn’s legacy will always live on in Spencer.
“We know we’ll never forget her,” Stewart said. “But we want to make it so the world will not forget her, that she’ll always be remembered.”
The family also tells us they’re in the process of honoring Shaylyn by launching the Shaylyn Memorial Foundation in the next few months.
Its mission will be to help kids who have been sexually abused with counseling and medical costs. They also want to help pay funeral costs and purchase headstones for all kids whose families can’t afford to.