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Mom wants memorial to daughter saved

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POSTED February 17, 2014 6:31 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Long Beach mother wants the city to permit a memorial to her daughter, who was stabbed to death in 2012, to remain on public property.

The tribute to 9-year-old Xiomara Fernandez near the parking lot where she was killed began with flowers, but it now includes a bench and a bird bath, gifts from a stranger. The patch of dirt had also been outlined in brick and filled in with wood chips.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that it has become a weekly refuge for the late girl’s mother, 42-year-old Graciela Fernandez, who comes to pray, read her Bible or meditate.

“I want Xiomara’s memory to live in the spot where she left this Earth,” she told the Times. “This is where I’ve come to terms with what happened. Being able to come here has given me consolation and maintains my strength.”

Impromptu memorials are common on city streets, especially for crime victims, but city officials say it cannot stay permanently on public property. They want to work with the family on other options, such as planting a tree in a park in remembrance of Xiomara or moving the memorial onto private property.

“We really understand that the family is grieving and wants a place to remember their daughter,” Long Beach Deputy City Manager Tom Modica told the newspaper. “However, there are certain rules about maintaining the public right of way for public services. We have a responsibility to fulfill the law and apply it equally.”

The girl’s stepfather, Jacinto Zuniga Trujillo, has been charged with one count of murder with the special circumstance that he killed the girl because she was a witness to a crime, among other charges. He remains in custody.

The city has a record of one complaint about the memorial. Otherwise, Fernandez seems to have the support of the neighborhood, which was shaken by the events that took place there, the newspaper reported.

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