Nariah Ivy Brown left this world much like she came into it: prematurely and fighting for her life.
The 17-month-old died Friday after a brutal assault two days earlier at a South Richmond motel in the 6400 block of Midlothian Turnpike, according to Richmond police.
“We want to tell the world about little Nariah,” said Charles Willis, the executive director of United Communities Against Crime, which held a vigil at Forest Hill Park on Tuesday. “She only stayed for 17 months, but made a big impact.”
Nariah’s mother, Aija Brown, said the cheerful, loving child had lots of nicknames, but the most commonly used one was “Butter Bean.”
“Because she was short and stout,” Brown explained with a smile under watery eyes.
Brown had given birth to the child early and spent months by her side at the hospital as she grew stronger. Brown returned to the hospital with her baby in her arms after last week’s assault.
“When I held my daughter in my arms for the last time, I said, ‘Baby, I love you. And I’m going to let you go with Him,’ ”she said, her voice swollen with emotion. “I’ll be right behind you. I’ll be up there, and I’m going to hold you again.”
During much of the vigil, Brown stoically held two stuffed bears that well-wishers at the South Side park had given her.
“All I can see is her,” Brown told reporters after the vigil.
She said that’s how she has gotten through the past week, thinking of her daughter and being surrounded by family.
Brown told those who attended the vigil to watch over their children, hold them close, and don’t ignore any warning signs.
“You can’t leave your babies with just anybody,” Brown said. “The things that happened to my daughter, I would never wish that on anybody. Don’t ignore it, y’all.”
Brown left the child with a man whom she and other family members said they had known for years.
Police have not described the incident any further than to say the child was assaulted. No charges have been filed at this time, police said.
The state medical examiner’s office has not released the girl’s cause of death.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective D. Longoria at (804) 646-6759 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.