The honor roll student a family friend describes as a “tomboy” was orphaned along with her “girly girl” 5-year-old sister, Gabriella, just three days before Christmas.
On Dec. 22, Marcella opened the door of her Ivy Ridge Apartments home to find her father, Pericles Demoura, 45, holding a gun.
“Her dad had a gun and said, ‘Surprise’ and he just started opening fire,” said Jennifer Parker, a family friend. “He killed her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, and then he took the final bullet and killed himself in front of her.”
Demoura killed Thelma Vinhal, 35, the girls’ mother, and her boyfriend, Euclides Guinato-Bernardes, 30, both of Marietta. He then took his own life.
It all happened in front of Marcella while her little sister was at a friend’s house.
Now, Parker is trying to raise money to help the girls begin a new life.
“I can’t fix this,” Parker said. “I’m not a child psychologist, but then I started to think about the Atlanta community.”
Parker employs girls’ cousin, Carolina Andrade, who will become their caregiver, to clean her Brookhaven home.
“She went from two kids to four in a matter of minutes,” Parker said of Andrade.
Andrade lives in an apartment on the floor above the Vinhals and heard the murder take place. She was the first person at the scene.
The entire family is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Parker said, and faces a financial hurdle.
The girls will also need to replace furniture ruined in the violent attack, clothing and other basic necessities.
“I was particularly worried that they wouldn’t have the money for the counseling that’s going to be needed,” she said.
So far, Parker has raised $4,000, but $2,000 of that will be spent to pay off Marcella’s braces. Another $4,000 is needed just to clean the apartment where the murder took place.
Donations can be made to the Vinhals Girls Trust at any SunTrust Bank branch in the metro area.
There are struggles that have yet to be seen, Parker said.
Just opening the trust fund presented a challenge. Because a parental signature is typically needed to open a trust, Parker had to hire an attorney to handle the bank’s red tape, costing her $1,200.
Still, her thoughts are with the girls who have been suddenly and unexpectedly left without parents.
“We have two children that have essentially been orphaned in such a violent way,” Parker said. “It wasn’t a car crash, and it wasn’t an accident. It was something intentional.”
Marcella is staying strong for her little sister, who doesn’t understand why she lost her parents, Parker said.
The family emigrated from Brazil nine years ago for a better life. Though they came to know tragedy all too well, the family plans to stay in the United States.
Parker said the Ivy Ridge Apartments, off Delk Road on the outskirts of Marietta where the family lived, has a tight-knit Brazilian community and they are seeing an outpouring of support.
An equestrian center has offered the girls free horseback riding as a means of therapy.