Marking a year since Latoyia Figueroa died
By CHRISTINE OLLEY
Amid a small, tight-knit group of family and friends in Southwest Philadelphia last night, Melvin Figueroa tearfully recounted what the last year has been like without his daughter, Latoyia.
"I went to the cemetery yesterday, and it took a lot out of me," he said, standing on South Ithan Street near Spruce. "It's been tough."
Tuesday marked a year since his daughter's death.
Latoyia Figueroa, 24, vanished last year after going to a prenatal checkup with Stephen Poaches, the father of her unborn child.
Her body was later found dumped in Chester County.
Poaches was charged with her murder and the murder of their unborn child after a tip led police to follow the suspect to where the body was found.
Police say he intended to move the body, but never got the chance.
The case became a symbol for lack of attention given to cases involving missing minority women.
Philadelphia Prisons Department spokesman Bob Eskin said Poaches is awaiting trial in an undisclosed location in another jurisdiction.
"We're just paying our respects to Latoyia today. As for Poaches, he's been convicted, and I am glad," said aunt Michelle Perez, who recalled her niece's "free spirit."
"I hope that he rots in hell for what he did to her, because he denied it to the very end," she said of Poaches.
Citing the recent violence in the city, Melvin Figueroa prayed for peace.
"With 215 people already dead this year, it's hard, but you have to help," he told the assembled group.
Councilman Juan Ramos, a cousin of the Figueroas, led a prayer, blessing the efforts of Latoyia's father in trying to find his oldest child, and also asking for peace.
"We have to remember how sad this day is," he said. "Latoyia lost her life and we can't forget."
Then, in a final send-off with pink balloons for Melvin's slain daughter and blue balloons for his recently slain nephew, Eddie Figueroa, the crowd released them into the air.
Ending the vigil, Figueroa said, "Be careful out there and be well. You can't just lock the doors anymore, because they aren't just taking hostages, they are taking bodies."