Outdoor celebration held as memorial for child abuse victim Kilah Davenport

03/22/2014 7:13 PM

03/22/2014 9:07 PM

The early spring sky was a little cloudy Saturday afternoon. But if you were looking in just the right place at 3:56 p.m., you could have seen it turn pink and purple.

That’s when hundreds of balloons, many scribbled with wishes and love, were released in honor of child abuse victim Kilah Davenport.

The 4-year-old died March 13. She never recovered from the abuse she suffered in May 2012, when she was 3.

Kilah’s stepfather, Joshua Houser, was convicted in February of causing her injuries by slamming Kilah into a wall, shattering her skull, breaking her collar bone and causing brain damage so severe that she lost the ability to walk and talk. He’s serving a 7- to 10-year sentence.

The Union County district attorney is awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether there will be new charges against Houser in Kilah’s death.

On Saturday, though, her family asked friends and supporters to come together to celebrate the life of Kilah (pronounced ky-LA).

“Funeral homes are for old people,” her grandmother, Leslie Davenport, declared last week. Her granddaughter had loved to dance and be happy, she said, so that’s what they wanted for her memorial.

Several hundred friends and supporters gathered by a lake at The Oaks, a special-event space in Cabarrus County.

Three politicians spoke, including U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who announced that federal legislation to require states to report on their penalties for child abuse, has gone to the Senate, where he has been told it has support by both parties.

“We will see this passed in the U.S. Senate,” said Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican. “This will go to the president, all because of this wonderful family.”

Since Kilah’s injury, the Davenport family has lobbied for tougher sentences for child abuse. A new law with increased penalties for five child abuse-related felonies was passed in North Carolina last year.

On Saturday, the celebration of Kilah’s life brought out members of motorcycle clubs from Boone to Mooresville, who have held memorial rides to raise money to support the family’s efforts. Firefighters and emergency workers from Fairview, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Union County lined the path where people waited to hug family members, including Kilah’s mother, Kirbi Davenport.

People perched on the hill above the lake with folding chairs, coolers and their own kids, ready to party. Hula Hoops were passed out so people could swing their hips when local musician Darrell Harwood performed a favorite song of Kilah’s, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).”

Down by the lake, a little party dress on a hanger swayed in the breeze. Kilah died two days before she was supposed to wear the pink and lavender dress as the special guest at a prom for disabled youths.

“She was going to be a princess,” said family friend Donna Franklin. “We took her a crown.”

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