Several hundred family members, friends and neighbors gathered at a South Los Angeles church Saturday to mourn the death of Sherrice Iverson, the 7-year-old girl slain in a Nevada casino over the Memorial Day weekend.
The little girl’s body lay in a white casket under a mantle of pink and white carnations and roses. She was described as a “beautiful bud” and “God’s angel.”
Several family members, including her mother, Yolanda Renee Manuel, wore white and were adorned with white ribbons, a symbol, they said, of innocence lost. Both her mother and her father, Leroy Iverson, sobbed quietly throughout the service at Paradise Baptist Church.
“She was a little queen, an angel plucked so soon from the tree of life, and all of us ask why?” said Carol Johnson, a family friend who sang a tribute to Sherrice.
Others offering tribute also spoke of the tragic loss of a life so young and the void created for family and friends.
“Every mother and every father looks to celebrate a child’s 16th birthday, to see their child graduate from high school, to see them go to the prom, but [her life] was short of that,” said another family friend.
Sherrice attended 75th Street Elementary School, where friends remembered her as an energetic child, ever-smiling, open to new experiences and good at making friends.
Although her mother made no remarks at the service, she included a special message to her daughter in the program.
“Her spirit was boundless, reaching out to all who came in contact with her, and it is this spirit that we will carry within our hearts forever,” she wrote.
The child’s body was found May 25 slumped in the stall of a restroom at the Primadonna casino at the California-Nevada state line.
As her father gambled in another part of the casino, police allege that Jeremy Strohmeyer, an 18-year-old Long Beach man, saw the girl in a video arcade and began playing a game of hide-and-seek with her.
Surveillance camera videos at the casino allegedly show Strohmeyer following Sherrice into the women’s restroom and emerging 25 minutes later. The girl had been raped and strangled, police said.
Strohmeyer has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and murder. On Friday, the Wilson High School senior was transferred from the Long Beach city jail to the Los Angeles County Jail as authorities prepared to have him extradited to Nevada.
As family and friends mourned, the brutal circumstances and notoriety of Sherrice’s death lay close to the surface. The church at 51st Street and Broadway was crowded with media, including camera crews from Las Vegas television stations. The press contingent surged to snap pictures of relatives and had to be loudly warned from blocking the entrance as Leroy Iverson entered.
Inside the church, some wondered why a 7-year-old had been left alone during the early morning hours. Others offered harsh words for her alleged attacker.
Pastor A. D. Iverson, who is the cousin of Leroy Iverson, cautioned against quick judgments.
“Now is not the time to fix blame,” he said. “For if we fix the blame, we still will not have solved the problem.”
Sherrice Marshay Renee Iverson was buried later at Inglewood Memorial Park.