In a ceremony that alternated between tears and indignation, friends and family on Saturday bid farewell to Dae'von Bailey, the 6-year-old boy from South Los Angeles who was allegedly beaten to death July 23 by his mother's former boyfriend.
One by one, relatives approached the sleek white casket to get one last look at a child who had reportedly told a nurse six weeks before his battered body was found that the ex-boyfriend had abused him. Cousins, aunts and uncles lingered by his side, kissing his cheeks and lips, snapping photographs and tucking tiny crosses into the pocket of his crisp, white suit.
His mother, Tylette Davis, 28, sat motionless in the front row, holding a white teddy bear and a blue toy truck she eventually tucked inside the casket. Her other five children, who are now in the care of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, sat behind her, sobbing intermittently. "We know that he may not have graduated from elementary school to high school to college," said Pastor Betty Thomas at the start of the three-hour service, "but he made the graduation to heaven."
The ceremony at Light of the World Church of God in Christ in Compton came after Dae'von's body was found in a house on 87th Place with multiple bruises on his face, arm, chest, back, wrist, elbow and feet.
Police have issued a murder warrant for Marcas Fisher, Davis' ex-boyfriend, but police believe he is in hiding with help from family and friends.
The boy's death prompted questions about the county's handling of the case. According to Los Angeles police detectives, social workers had approved an agreement between Fisher and the boy's mother that placed Dae'von in the man's home without the mother. Fisher had been convicted of rape as a teenager and had a criminal record as an adult.
Grieving relatives were still shocked and confused by the boy's death. Minister Edward Lott asked the crowd not to seek revenge, but to remember their family values.
As the sound of an organ filled the room, relatives young and old took turns at the microphone. Their voices were full of pain as they sang songs and delivered tributes to honor the boy they knew affectionately as "Dae-Dae."
Dae'von's grandmother, Linda Dotson, brought everyone to their feet after singing her grandson's favorite song, "This Little Light of Mine." A saxophonist followed with a heartfelt homage.
"I feel like I've been robbed," Dae'von's great-uncle, Glenn Dotson, told the crowd.
"I trust God that his death will be a source of life for other children in this county," he added.
Dae'von's mother declined to comment, but a note she had written to her son was printed in a memorial program filled with colorful photographs of the young boy driving toy cars and playing with video games: "My heart is broken, my soul is crushed," the note said " . . . Mommie loves you but God loves you more. So sleep, my little angel, sleep. We will meet again."
His father, Donald Bailey, also declined to comment.
Civil rights activist Eddie Jones, acting as the family's spokesman, demanded that Fisher turn himself in to police.
"You have a responsibility as a man, as a father, to own up and turn yourself in and answer to your alleged murder," Jones said.