Vigil remembers child-abuse victims
With country music singer Billy Dean’s “Let Them Be Little” playing in the background, about three dozen people released balloons to mourn the death of 19-month-old Owen Daniel Reak on Tuesday.
Owen died in Montrose County on April 11, an apparent victim of child abuse, according to law enforcement officials.
The vigil was held in front of the Mesa County Courthouse.
“I’d like to think that there is a special place in heaven for children who have been abused,” Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland said. “I like to envision it as Disneyland on steroids, where you eat cotton candy all day and don’t get (sick) and there’s never any long lines, even for the good rides.”
Rowland and Fruita City Councilwoman Stacey Mascarenas organized the event, which also included a poem read by Mascarenas’ daughter, Madison, and a “Letter to Owen” read by Donna Bennett, who is co-chairwoman with Mascarenas of a community effort to prevent child abuse called How Are The Children?
“Know that we will work to be more vigilant and observant,” Bennett said. “Your death will heighten our efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect and will remind us of how it is the work of every community person who cares about children to do what they can to prevent tragedies like yours from ever occurring again.”
Last month, police arrested Justin Keel in Grants, N.M., on a Mesa County Sheriff’s Department warrant on suspicion of one count of child abuse resulting in death. Keel was the boyfriend of Owen’s mother, Amber Nicole Reak.
Authorities believe the child suffered injuries in Grand Junction and died in Montrose County.
The Montrose County Coroner’s Office has ruled that the cause of death was non-accidental blunt force trauma and that the manner of death was a homicide.