After 12 long years since her daughter was murdered, Lizasuain DeJesus of Hunting Park is still without answers.
She visited Iriana DeJesus’s grave at Greenmount Cemetery just days after what would have been her daughter’s 17th birthday. It brought back horrifying memories of the day her daughter went missing. She said she still does not have closure of the kidnapping and murder of her 5-year-old child in 2000.
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The balloons tied around Iriana’s heart-shaped grave were just a few of the balloons that C.J. Waddy, Iriana’s former preschool teacher at East Frankford Day Care, brought to her birthday party on Jan. 31 to release into the sky in her remembrance. Waddy also brought his recently published book based on Iriana’s story.
Waddy dedicated the book, U Nooo Tito, Boy Hero, Says No to Strangers, to Iriana. It is a story about a superhero who saves a girl before she is harmed by her kidnapper. On the inside cover of the 52-page children’s book is a photo of the young girl with a big smile and long, braided pigtails.
Sitting next to DeJesus with the book in his hands, Waddy explained why he wrote the story. “I wanted to be able to send a message to kids and also remember Iriana, but with a different ending. This time she comes back.”
DeJesus said the last time she saw her daughter, Iriana jumped off of the third step of the staircase leading up to their apartment at the corner of North Fairhill and Luzerne streets. The mother went to the store down the street and when she came back her daughter was gone.
“It didn’t even take me a minute to scream out her name,” DeJesus said as her bottom lip trembled. “I just screamed her name out so loud.”
Iriana’s body was found five days later wrapped in a trash bag in an apartment building not far from their home. The DNA pointed to a man named Alexis Flores, an undocumented immigrant who worked in a store nearby. But by the time police received the information in 2007, he had already been deported.
Flores is currently on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. He is believed to be in Honduras or El Salvador. The FBI is offering $100,000 for information leading to his capture.
DeJesus fought back her tears. “I wouldn’t want this on nobody and I do really want to say that I just can’t wait until my phone call comes.”
She said she spoke to detectives two weeks ago when a neighbor claimed to see a long-haired man who looked like Flores. It was a false alarm.
DeJesus will accompany Waddy and his son, Chafik Waddy, the illustrator of the book, at their first book signing at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Feb. 15.
She said, “I’m just very grateful that I’m able to go out there and try to help out another child.”