When 6-year-old Isabel Celis disappeared from her bedroom at her family’s midtown home nearly five years ago, several hundred in the Tucson community came forth to pray at vigils near her house. They prayed for her safe return.
On Wednesday, more than 100 — some holding lit candles, balloons and posters — came to say goodbye to Isabel, the child who was described as an “angel,” pictured with long brown hair and hazel eyes.
It was a public candlelight memoriam in Isabel’s honor that was held outdoors at the downtown Joel D. Valdez Main Library. Music played, including the song “Hallelujah.”
“Talk to each other and heal,” said Tammy Acuña, 44, who helped bring Tucsonans together to raise funds through car washes in 2012 to help support Isabel’s parents, Becky and Sergio Celis, through the ordeal.
“Look out for one another and keep loving and watching out for your children,” Acuña told the crowd, which prayed in silence and released balloons into the air.
Carlos Rodriguez, 9, a third-grader at Los Amigos Elementary School, was holding a poster with gold and pink butterflies and purple, blue and red balloons in the shape of hearts that read: “Isabel Celis you will forever be missed.”
“I wanted to come and remember her,” explained Carlos, as his mother, Amanda Duran, 27, stood nearby and said they followed the case through media reports. She said Isabel touched their hearts.
Melina Beas-Campo, 24, said she included Isabel in her daily prayers since she went missing.
Through tears, she said the news of Isabel’s death “broke my heart,” adding that she also has a young daughter.
Travis Ramirez, a photographer and Pima Community College student, hosted the event. He — like many in Tucson, across the nation and even abroad — were moved by Isabel’s disappearance.
On Friday, Police Chief Chris Magnus announced that Isabel’s remains were found in early March in a rural area of Pima County. The remains were positively identified by DNA testing as those of Isabel, who went missing in 2012. Magnus would not elaborate because it is an ongoing investigation.
People signed a guest book at the memoriam — sending their thoughts to the Celis family, who did not attend but sent word thanking the community.