KANSAS CITY, MO — Even if it’s just for a moment in time, Santa can take children’s minds into a magical place around the holidays. That’s exactly what Mr. Claus himself did for children of murder victims in Kansas City at an annual holiday event hosted by Healing Pathway Victim Services Agency.
Marvaelle Clark, 40, spoke out about the terrible tragedy that struck her family just last month. On November 12, her daughter MarYanna Pennington was shot and killed after her car broke down. She left behind three children.
Four-year-old daughter MiAJah Jackson has seemed hardest hit by the crime. Clark said the little girl cried the entire night before and told her, “I miss my mama. I love my mama.” All Clark can do is tell the child, “She’s in heaven. She’s watching you, looking over you.”
A trip the very next morning to see the man in the big red suit may have just been what MiAJah needed, even if for a moment in time, as the little girl cheered, “Santa! Santa!”
Monica Roberts is the founder of the nonprofit agency that works with the children of murder victims, and throws the annual Christmas party. This year, more than 50 families were invited.
Roberts said of her mission: “A lot of homicides, after they occur, a lot of the children are left without the basic supports. One of the things is that they miss out on the special days, like birthdays and Christmas.” On this one special day the children are fed and given gifts by officers who sponsor them with their own funds.
As for MiAJah’s mom, MarYanna Pennington, according to the report, she had been returning from a wedding with three other women, including her 24-year-old sister. Police say 24-year-old DeAndre Jackson, the twin brother of Pennington’s late long-time companion, approached the vehicle, possibly with another suspect. According to the Kansas City Star, 32 shell casings from two different guns were found at the scene.
Pennington’s companion, Mark D. Jackson, was killed in 2013, almost three years ago to the date of Pennington’s murder. The motive for the shooting has not been revealed, but one report says Pennington and DeAndre Jackson’s girlfriend may have been in a fight only days before her murder. Pennington and Jackson also reportedly were not seeing eye-to-eye.
Jackson was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Pennington’s sister was also reportedly shot five times and may be paralyzed. Clark is left caring for a total of five children, between the tragedies that befell both of her daughters.
Former Kansas City Royals player and current Kansas City Mayor Sly James also attended the evening and said, bluntly, “We have had a bad year… ”
James said the level of violence was out of control with 114 homicides so far. He wants the citizens of his city to take a pledge not to participate in the negative and added, “If we make that pledge, everybody in this city will be better for it… because, at the end of the day, love always conquers hate. And we always have to be the ones on the love side.”
Main photo: [Kansas City Star video/screenshot]