Holding white candles in small Styrofoam cups, they huddled under umbrellas at the corner of W. Ruscomb and N. Hutchinson streets Wednesday night.
They were there to call for justice and celebrate the life of DeeAnna Riddle, a 25-year-old mother of two who had been fatally shot over the Fourth of July weekend.
As the Boyz 2 II Men song “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” blared from a nearby car’s speakers, the rain relented. Plastic bags protecting photos of Riddle, memorial stuffed animals and dozens of candles arranged on the sidewalk were removed.
Behind the crowd of more than 100 loved ones, friends and residents of the neighborhood just up Ninth Street from Roosevelt Boulevard, a rainbow stretched across the sky.
The man who opened the prayer vigil noted he was surrounded by mourners with “hurting hearts” because they lost someone who lived life to the fullest until it was taken away from her.
“We are going to cry tears of joy,” said Riddle’s cousin William Fleming. “This is a reality check for all of us. Domestic violence is not a joke. This cannot go on any longer.”
A press release issued by police earlier in the day offered few details about the homicide.
Riddle was found dead inside a rooming house in the 1600 block of W. Lehigh Ave. on Sunday morning.
Her body was discovered on her bed around 7:30 a.m. She’d suffered a gunshot wound to her head. Her family said they think the shooting happened the night before.
Riddle was declared dead at the scene and, according to police, there has been no arrest or motive established.
At the emotional gathering, Riddle’s loved ones claimed they knew who was responsible. In fact, they said he showed up at the family home on Monday, but then took off running when confronted by relatives.
That’s why Fleming urged women in abusive relationships to break ties with the person causing them pain and told “fellas [that] we gotta do better by our women.”
“Justice must be served,” he said, asking attendees to share information about the case with the family or police. “She was just a beautiful person with a kind heart. She did everything for her daughters. We need justice so her daughters feel safe. Everybody came here to show their love for her tonight, and that’s a blessing.”
Flanked by Riddle’s three- and seven-year-old daughters, Fleming then looked into a television camera and said, “We know who you are, and you know who you are. Please turn yourself in. We will not rest until we find you.”
Guests at the vigil
Terry Starks, an anti-violence activist with Philadelphia CeaseFire, brought Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey to the vigil.
He told attendees that something must be done about street violence, and urged them to share his sentiment by, among other things, going to the polls.
“I want to stop the violence, support this community and bring light to these issues,” Bailey told the crowd. “We’re no longer saying it doesn’t matter.”
Away from the crowd, Starks told NewsWorks that Bailey has toured similarly situated neighborhoods with him recently. He noted that the rooming house where Riddle was living ― in an attempt to give her family a fresh start ― was not far from CeaseFire’s hub.
“We can’t be comfortable with this,” said Bailey, noting that Riddle’s murder was more than a holiday weekend afterthought to much of the city, which is what it became. “They’re seeing this stuff day in and day out. We need to let people in the community know that we care.”