EAST ST. LOUIS — Funeral arrangements have been announced for Calyia Stringer, the 3-year-old girl struck by a stray bullet in the Roosevelt Homes in East St. Louis last Sunday.
Calyia's funeral will be at noon Friday at Calvary Church, 429 Range Lane, Cahokia. Prior to the funeral service, there will be visitation at the church starting at 10 a.m. Serenity Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Calyia was pronounced dead around 4 a.m. Tuesday at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, where she was taken after the Sunday shooting.
Calyia's aunt, Mariesha Samuels, of Belleville, said in an interview that Calyia's family made the decision to donate her organs.
"Calyia was only allowed to live a short life. She was very healthy and happy. Her parents made the decision to allow another child to live a life she was not allowed to live," Samuels said.
The joy and happiness Calyia brought to her family is going to be tremendously missed, Samuels said. "And September 5 is a day forever etched in all of our lives, but especially for her father. It was his birthday," she said sadly.
"There are no words to say how much our little girl was loved. Saying we're going to miss her is not an adequate way to describe the void we are dealing with. Our little girl was everything to our family," Samuels said.
Samuels described her niece as shy with a soft voice, "but she always wanted you to know she saw you.
"If you were getting out of the car, she would say "Hi", but if you were approaching her, she would run to her parents fast," Samuels said chuckling, as she recalled these moments in Calyia's life.
Calyia enjoyed playing outside and riding her bike.
"She loved unicorn and Peppa pig (cartoons). She loved all things pink. Not being able to see her enjoy her favorite cartoons is going to really hurt us. And, seeing her face light up when she saw anything pink is another something we won't get to see anymore."
Claudette Rowling and Curtis Stringer, Calyia's parents, are beside themselves with grief over the tragic way their child lost her life.
Curtis Stringer said he will miss the bright lights in his daughter's eyes and her big warm smile.
"She was happy, funny and goofy, too. She was outgoing and was my bundle of joy. She was my family's bundle of joy. Calyia was very precious to me,"Stringer said.
Samuels said the family is drawing strength from a lot of prayer and family togetherness, as friends rally around them.
She said friends and family are putting up signs around the community announcing a $1,000 reward for information that will help police capture the shooter.
Police said Calyia was lying in bed watching television when a stray bullet from outside the apartment passed through a wall, striking Calyia, around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5.
Her father was the first to find out his baby girl had been shot, a scene he can't get out of his head. He was helpless.
"I heard a loud popping noise and I went inside the room, " Stinger said "...I fell to my knees. My cousin ran to me and told me not to touch her, I ran outside and cried. I am still crying. I can't think straight."
State police said in a statement that someone in a dark-colored sedan began shooting at a crowd of people standing outside of the Roosevelt Homes that night.
"Individual(s) within the group returned fire," state police said. "During the exchange of gunfire, a bullet entered Building 47 and struck the victim. Following the shooting, the suspect(s) fled the area."
CrimeStoppers also announced it is giving up to $5,000 for the tip that leads to the felony arrest of the person who took Calyia's life. All tips must be called in to 1-866-371-8477 or emailed to stlrcs.org.
"She was an innocent child and was in her grandmother's apartment in her bedroom," Samuels said.