Embracing in Quiet Prayer for Marisol

At Church, Hundreds of Mourners Recall Warmth and Kindness of Slain Girl

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2008; Page B02

A few hundred people came to the big stone church, came in from the spitting rain alone last night or in groups, walked up the center aisle under towering arches and kneeled in prayer at the coffin of a girl who will always be 12.

On an easel by the open white coffin they saw a poster-size photo of the slain child, Marisol Melina Caceres. The mourners stood from their prayers in the hush of the cavernous sanctuary and looked down at Marisol in her pretty white dress.

Someone had put a small soccer ball in the coffin, with a long plastic sunflower and a stuffed Winnie the Pooh. The people looked down, then they turned away and sat on the dark wood pews of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, at 16th Street and Park Road NW, saying little.

What was there to say?

A week had passed since Marisol's mother and a half-sister found her strangled in the living room of their third-floor apartment on Hawaii Avenue NW. Her father, Felipe Antonio Caceres, 45, an auto mechanic, was charged with second-degree murder Friday and jailed without bond.

Only her killer knows why it happened.

Last night, mourners gathered in the church for a viewing and a religious service, the coffin decked with carnations and set by the altar.

Teenagers and old people and parents with small children came; they wore their Sunday best, or shorts and sneakers, or work clothes soiled from the day's labor. They looked at Marisol in the dim light and shook their heads. A woman pressed a hand to her mouth, reaching down with the other to stroke the child's thick dark hair.

A priest celebrated Mass.

Some people cried. Some had no tears. They embraced and swayed wordlessly. When they spoke, they murmured. For what was there to say?

She was only 12.

"She was open to new friendships and always creating new ones," her family said in a statement. "She always found a way to make us laugh. She was the youngest of the family yet she was, in many ways, the oldest because of her demeanor. She lived her life vividly by visiting museums, taking up martial arts, and sharing new thoughts and interests."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company