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Memory walk
Family and friends of Marisa Spoonhunter gathered for a memorial walk April 7 in Ethete to honor the second anniversary of the eighth-grader's death. Photo by Martin Reed

A young death generates memories

Apr 15, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Easter weekend has taken on another importance for the family and friends of Marisa Spoonhunter.

To mark the Ethete eighth-grader's death two years ago at the hands of her oldest brother, parents Bernadette and Vern Spoonhunter along with other relatives and friends gathered on April 7 to remember her youthful spirit.

"It's been two years. She meant a lot to our community," Vern Spoonhunter said in a quiet voice during a memorial walk in his daughter's memory from Wyoming Indian High School about a half-mile north to Blue Sky Hall in Ethete.

"She'll never be forgotten. That's good to see," Spoonhunter said.

A federal judge in March 2011 sentenced Robert Spoonhunter, then 22, to 13 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter related to the death of his sister.

The judge also sentenced their step-cousin, Kyeren Tillman, then 19, to six years and eight months for sexual abuse of a minor and being an accessory in the girl's death.

The girl died in 2010 when her brother became enraged at the actions of Tillman and his sister and threw her down, her head hitting a weight bench.

Close to 40 people either walked or rode in cars along Blue Sky Highway for her memorial walk. Some of her best friends helped carry a banner with her picture and basketball team player number.

"I felt kind of sad but then I felt happy too because we keep doing this for her and giving examples for younger kids to stay at home and be safe," 15-year-old Adrina Duran said.

Adrina recalled being friends with Marisa and hanging out in middle school. "Now we're high schoolers and our lives are going to change. She was the one that brought us eighth-grade girls together. I miss her a lot," she said.

Lyric Chingman, 15, another close friend, remembered Marisa's laughs and upbeat attitude. "It felt good to walk for her," she said.

Dennis Lincoln Jr., a cousin of Marisa's, walked for his "little sister."

"I miss her and I love her and I'll walk 1,000 miles for her any day," Lincoln said.

Marisa's mother, Bernadette, looked around at the crowd gathered during the walk and felt the support for her daughter and others attending.

"It makes me feel proud to know there are still a lot of people that care about Marisa and show up to walk today. And they never forgot about her. That's the important thing," she said.

Christine Willow, who called Marisa a granddaughter, observed all the young girls and faces in the group.

"I know she's still with us all the time. We pray for us and for Bobby," Willow said, referring to Marisa's brother. "Nothing is done without the power of prayer. That's why we're all here."

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