Family Holds Vigil for Florida City Toddler Found in Ditch

By Gilma Avalos and Diana Gonzalez
|  Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013  |  Updated 1:18 AM EDT
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Holding a candle in one hand, and leading her 6-year-old son with the other, Sheneka Robinson returned Monday night to the place where her daughter Mariah Johnson's tiny body was found on Saturday. NBC 6's Gilma Avalos reports.

Holding a candle in one hand, and leading her 6-year-old son with the other, Sheneka Robinson returned Monday night to the place where her daughter Mariah Johnson's tiny body was found on Saturday. NBC 6's Gilma Avalos reports.

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Holding a candle in one hand, and leading her 6-year-old son with the other, Sheneka Robinson returned Monday night to the place where her daughter Mariah Johnson's tiny body was found on Saturday.

"I haven't slept, I haven't ate. I just feel so weak," Robinson said with family members surrounding her, as they held a vigil for Mariah, two days after her body was found in a Florida City ditch.

An autopsy is underway to determine how Mariah, who was just under two years old, died Saturday afternoon.

Tears rolled down the cheek of her brother Jamarie at the vigil. He sobbed into his shirt after placing a white rose in front of the memorial. He has not been told his sister is gone, yet understands the loss.

"He knows, he knows," his 20-year-old mother said. She's had to field questions from her children, who want to know where 'Riah, as she was affectionately known, is.

A few hours after she was reported missing, her body was found in a ditch a block away from her home. The ditch has since been sealed and is surrounded by toys and balloons.

"I can envision her right now on the ground. I can see her right now," Karen Hilton said earlier Monday.

Hilton was at a beauty supply store across the street when she heard screaming and ran to help Mariah's aunt try to resuscitate the child.

"We'd been working on her for long time and she said I don't think she's breathing. I said hold on let me check her pulse. Checked her pulse there was no pulse. Then I began to feel the rest of her body and she was cold," described Hilton.

The Good Samaritan works with HIV/AIDS patients in Florida City and Homestead. She is losing sleep over what happened to Mariah.

The little girl and her siblings were with Willie Wilson, their mother's boyfriend, when the girl went missing. Over the weekend, Robinson said she didn't think Wilson would harm her child.

"I never think he would do nothing like that. He loved my kids, every last one of them," Robinson said on Sunday.

Neighbors aren't so sure.

On Monday a woman who did not want to be identified said neighbors checked the ditch and did not see Mariah. Then Wilson said he found the child there.

"We all did, the whole community did. That baby was not there. I'm sorry," said the neighbor.

Wilson did not talk to NBC 6 when a reporter went to his home. His mother did speak out Monday.

"He said he was walking from the store and the baby, he looked back and she was gone. He had his baby and two more, and three kids, and that little girl fell in the hole or something. He said he didn’t know there was a hole," Ernestine Wilson said.

She added that her son “came early this morning, and he said we’re going to do the autopsy. He said that they’re going to prove that he did not do nothing to the baby.”

On Monday details emerged about Mariah's father. He's 25-year-old Poncho Johnson, who is currently in jail for battery on a pregnant woman, according to authorities.

That pregnant woman was Robinson, said her uncle Stanley Dye.

Johnson had a message from behind bars at the vigil.

"He want to let his daughter know that he love her and he will always love her, and he was going to miss her," shouted a man while holding a cell phone up to his ear.

On Monday a Miami-Dade Police spokesperson said homicide detectives were meeting with the medical examiner.

The Department of Children and Families is investigating the case and has a prior history with the family.

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