One year ago Tuesday, Adriaunna Horton was another fun-loving, 12-year-old girl, out out playing with her little sisters ...
One year ago Tuesday, Adriaunna Horton was another fun-loving, 12-year-old girl, out out playing with her little sisters at the small park less than a block from her home after her first day of sixth grade in the southeast Barton County town of Golden City.
On Tuesday, a sizable percentage of the community of 760 met at that same park to remember the girl who will always be 12 years old, and release pink balloons, her favorite color, in Adriaunna Horton's honor.
"If all of the little ones want to go first, let them fly high for her," said Adriaunna's Uncle, Larry Horton. "Let them fly."
Adriaunna wasn't there because after school on Aug. 19, 2013, she was kidnapped from that tiny park at the corner of Hicks Street and Chestnut Street and murdered a short time later.
Bobby Bourne Jr., 34, Lockwood, a man who once worked with Adriaunna's father, James Horton, is charged with three felonies, kidnapping a child, statutory rape and first degree murder.
Barton County Prosecutor Steven Kaderly has said he will seek the death penalty, and a trial is set for September, 2015.
As many said at Tuesday's remembrance, however, "We don't want to make this about the perpetrator."
"I miss her tremendously," Larry Horton told a crowd of several dozen who filled the tiny park where the girl was abducted. "She spent a lot of time with Jen and I and the boys and everybody here. But I feel in my heart that she lives through each and every one of you all also."
Adriaunna's father, James Horton, her sisters and other family, along with some rescuers who searched the area around Golden City for almost a week after her disappearance, gathered to remember the little girl with the big smile who loved to ride horses and hoped to be a barrel rider.
In fact, Larry Horton rode to the park from his farm on one of the horses Adriaunna loved to ride herself when she visited.
"It's been very rough on me because summer time and weekends, she'd come to the farm and the horse that's tied over there, him and one other one, she rode them all the time," Larry Horton said. "That was her goal in life is she wanted to ride and ride professionally. This was the year we were going to let her loose and start barrel racing and she never got the opportunity. But I know up above she's riding all through the clouds and one day, I hope to get to ride with her again."
Jolene Hoke, a friend of the family, said her daughter, who was a playmate of Adriaunna's, was still so shaken by the murder that she couldn't attend Tuesday's service.
"They played together and I lived behind the Hortons when I was pregnant with her," Hoke said. "They really didn't go to school together, but they played together and they were childhood friends. When we had the memorial, the funeral service for her, it was really hard on Mikayla."
Hoke said the community and the family are still waiting as the wheels of justice grind slowly through the case.
Larry Horton said he's made it a goal to try to change the laws to speed the process along so families don't have to wait two years for a verdict.
"I'm having a hard time swallowing it but when Bobby Bourne took her, she had 90 minutes," Larry Horton said. "They're letting him sit for two years, until September 2015 and I really don't think that's fair to the community, let alone the family and he's getting all the time in the world to sit and do what he wants, read, watch TV, whatever. I think our judicial system really needs to stop and think about what they're doing with these people. Look at what the community and families go through."
Larry Horton also said he wants to help the community make sure that the children feel safe enough once again to let their children play in Hazel Park and other parks in the city.
"This is your park," he told the children who gathered in front during the ceremony. "I don't want any of you to be afraid to come to this park and play, or the other parks, because this is our community. You are all of our kids, we love you all. All of us in this park love each and every one of you with all of our hearts. We want you guys to live and be free, have fun, you don't have to be scared or afraid because we're going to do everything in our power to keep this from ever happening again."