In a city where murders happen so regularly that most don't even make headlines, the death of a precious baby whose lifeless body was discovered in the woods last month stands out.
Her name was Alina Nylah Jordyn Diggs. She died two months shy of her second birthday, allegedly at the hands of a woman who was supposed to have been caring for her.
I shudder to think of what Alina's nightmarish final moments must have been like, so I won't dwell on them.
Instead, I'll concentrate on her mother, Brooke Barnes, who is trying to make something beautiful out of something really ugly. Barnes is organizing a private memorial service for family and friends only on Nov. 17, at an area church that the family has asked me not to disclose. Barnes envisions setting up the sanctuary so the front resembles a toddler's bedroom/play area. She wants to incorporate little Alina's toys, clothes and books along with photos from her daughter's too-brief life.
"I want it to be like if she was here," Barnes, 30, told me.
It's a lovely idea. A lot more comforting than having mourners sit in a church facing a child-size coffin surrounded by flowers. A fund-raiser to help pay for Alina's final expenses was to be held Thursday night at 5th Street Lounge. Organizers were hoping to raise about $1,000.
Barnes was locked up in Montgomery County for probation violations stemming from a 2014 retail theft case at the time of her daughter's death. She learned of what happened when her pastor showed up to deliver the news. She was released on Oct. 22.
When I spoke with Barnes on Wednesday afternoon, it was hard for her to talk about her daughter's passing. She was practically mute with grief. Her daughter's tiny body had been cremated just hours earlier.
Police say Nyisha Corbitt reportedly suffocated 22-month-old Alina, then transported her body from an Ogontz apartment to a nearby park, where she buried her in a shallow grave.
Corbitt, 33, was quickly arrested and charged with murder. She confessed to killing Alina, and surveillance video showed her carrying the dead toddler from the apartment and returning without her, police said. Authorities recovered Alina's body from Kemble Park, an 8-acre green space along Ogontz and Olney Avenues. Corbitt, who had been taking care of Alina for several weeks, is the mother of two of Alina's half-siblings, ages 4 and 5. But there reportedly was considerable animosity between Corbitt and Alina's mother. Barnes suspected that Corbitt might be capable of mistreating or abusing her daughter but "definitely not murder."
Born prematurely and weighing under 2 pounds, Alina began her life as something of a miracle baby. Relatives say she loved to eat and watch TV.
"I enjoyed having her around," said Pam Butler, Alina's grandmother.
"I can remember when I would come in from work, before I could walk in and close the door all the way, she was coming down the steps to her grandmother," she said.
Barnes is staying with a friend for now and trying to figure out how to rebuild her life without her daughter. She could really use a job.