By Mike Kinney
Hearts are heavy in the community, and particularly at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), over the tragic and horrific murder of a 5-week-old child last week.
On Wednesday night, local clergy gathered with mourners to pray and weep while clutching to lit candles and balloons in front of the Courtyard by Marriott in Richmond’s Hilltop neighborhood.
“Losing a life is always hard but a baby just feels so much more sacred,” GRIP Executive Director Kathleen Sullivan said. “We want to honor our ‘GRIP baby’ and be in prayer for the parents and the family.”
On Thursday, Feb. 4, a couple staying at the hotel, which is currently being used to house people struggling from homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, rushed their 5-week-old son to Kaiser Hospital in Richmond stating he was not breathing. The child died at the hospital, and his parents — RayRay Andrederral Darn, 35, and Marilyn Northington, 28 — were arrested on murder charges after the child was found to have suffered from severe physical injuries and was malnourished and dehydrated. A meth pipe and two butane lighters were found in the parents’ hotel room after a search.
The infant’s death has understandably stunned the community.
“These are hard times for everyone,” Sullivan said.
At Wednesday’s gathering, the young and talented JaCoree Prothro sang the gospel hymn, “I’m So Happy Just To Know I’m His Child,” and community advocate Antwon Clorid delivered a powerful prayer.
“Everyone has been touched or has been impacted directly or indirectly by what has happened,” said Rev. Dale Weatherspoon of Easter Hill United Methodist Church.
Among those directly impacted were the law enforcement officers who assumed the investigation. The patrol officers and detectives who handled this investigation “are parents first and police officers second,” Richmond police Sgt. Aaron Pomeroy said.
“This unfortunate and preventable crime takes it toll on all of us both as parents and police officers,” Pomeroy said, adding, “Hopefully, we will never see such a horrific crime like this one in our careers again.”
Cloird expressed the need to do more to help people in distress, especially at such a stressful time.
“We need to have more training to better help the homeless populations with their mental health, substance abuse issues and their life skills,” he said. “The homeless population deserves a second chance at a first class life.”
The parents of the child were scheduled to appear for an arraignment on murder charges Wednesday. They have two other small children who were taken into protective custody and turned over to Child Family Services.