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Ecclesia Girl’s Parents Not at Her Funeral

Times Staff Writer

Dayna Lorae Broussard was buried in Whittier on Wednesday--nearly two weeks after she was allegedly beaten to death in an Oregon farmhouse by members of the group her father founded to help inner-city children.

She would have celebrated her 9th birthday Monday.

The girl’s parents did not attend the funeral, which was arranged by her maternal grandmother, Viola Grant.

Grant told a reporter that her daughter, Dayna, and son-in-law, Eldridge Broussard Jr., had decided not to attend because of intense media attention.

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The couple apparently remained in Oregon, where Broussard--founder of the Watts-based Ecclesia Athletic Assn.--met Tuesday night with authorities who are conducting a child abuse investigation of the Ecclesia group.

Died of Injuries

According to Oregon medical examiners, Dayna was “severely whipped and beaten” and died of blunt-force injuries. Four members of Ecclesia are charged with manslaughter in her death. All have pleaded innocent and remain in jail in Oregon.

Oregon officials have charged that children under the group’s care were subjected to “systematic beatings” with paddles and electrical cords--up to 800 strokes at a time--while their peers were forced to watch and keep count.

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After Dayna’s death Oct. 14, the Oregon Children’s Services Division took custody of 53 youngsters affiliated with Ecclesia, which had set up operations near Portland.

Agency spokeswoman Alice Galloway said the children, some of whom witnessed Dayna’s fatal beating, met Tuesday for their first reunion. They discussed Dayna’s death with a local minister, and also recited Scriptures from the Book of Romans by memory, as they had been taught by the Ecclesia group.

“It was a time for them to talk a little bit about Dayna, and have a prayer,” Galloway said.

At Wednesday’s funeral in Los Angeles, only one speaker--Dayna’s uncle, Henry Webb--referred to the circumstances surrounding the girl’s death, and then only obliquely, telling mourners:

“This is an experience that we’ve never experienced before. . . . Through this experience may we learn to appreciate life better and to love one another more.”

About 200 family members and friends attended the service at the Angelus Crenshaw Chapel, where the Rev. Charles Bereal, pastor of Calvary Bible Church of Compton, officiated.

“Little Dayna has had difficulties,” Bereal said. “She was cut off at an early age. But you know this was the plan of God. . . . Little Dayna is through the suffering of this world. She won’t have to face what you and I face. She’s free.”

At one point, Bereal turned to the open pink casket containing the girl’s body and said God had claimed her “now, while you’re pure, while you’re trusting, before you have reached the age of accountability. . . . Now your life will be an example for all to follow.”

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Interment followed at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office Wednesday filed criminal charges against Broussard’s brother, Alvin Elvis Broussard, 25. The younger Broussard is accused of hitting a 10-year-old boy in the chest and head with a rubber hose and his fist, and is charged with one count of child endangering and inflicting illegal corporal punishment.

The incident allegedly occurred on Oct. 1 at the Watts Christian Center at 7700 S. Avalon Blvd. The center, which Eldridge Broussard founded, served as Ecclesia’s headquarters.

Los Angeles police officials spotted the boy when they visited the center on Oct. 16, after being notified of the Oregon investigation. The child, who has been in foster care since that date, was one of several who had recently been sent from Oregon to Los Angeles to help remodel the Watts Christian Center.

“They questioned him about his injuries and he told them that Alvin Broussard had struck him with a rubber hose and his closed fist,” City Atty. James K. Hahn said.

The younger Broussard was arrested that day and released on $3,000 bail.

Times staff writer Edwin Chen contributed to this article.


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