Police in Virginia on Saturday arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of killing a boy half his age, who family and neighbors said was killed trying to rescue his older sister from a sexual assault.
The Richmond Police Department did not identify the suspect, citing his age, but said he was charged with murder and strangulation. He is also suspected of attacking the girl, who family members said is 12 years old.
Her 8-year-old brother was remembered by hundreds of people at a candlelight vigil Saturday night. Amid tears and laughter brought on by positive memories, family and friends described the boy and his sister as an inseparable pair. They'd go to the mall, ride bikes and were equally loyal to their mother.
Police officials said they were amazed by how many people came to the vigil.
"I think it speaks volumes for the number of individuals to be here. It means a lot to this family and it means a lot to the police department," Police Maj. Steve Drew said during the televised event. "The arrest that was made was because of community involvement and people cooperating."
The boy's aunt, Geraldine Pitchford, wearing a shirt featuring his picture, offered a brief statement.
"My nephew was a sweetheart who was well-loved," Pitchford said during the vigil, saying that the boy's mother was too distraught to speak. "Pray for my sister please because she definitely needs every person and heart that can help her."
The boy died at the scene of the suspected assault, which took place about 6 p.m. Thursday alongside railroad tracks in a residential neighborhood southeast of downtown. His sister remained hospitalized Saturday with injuries that police did not describe.
A family member told WTVR-TV that the children were playing when someone came up to them and tried to rape the girl. A resident in the area told the television station that the girl emerged from the railway area cut and bruised and with clothing ripped off. Police did not say how the boy was killed.
Police said Saturday that though the suspect was identified within hours, he had to be "medically evaluated" before being arrested. Authorities also said that they initially had an inaccurate description of the suspect because he had "threatened and intimidated" the girl.
One speaker at the vigil said the suspect lived in the same neighborhood as the children.