At funeral, white and blue coffin, memories of girl's smile
Oct. 27, 2015
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Several mourners filed into a small Catholic church Tuesday wearing T-shirts that said "Justice for Lilly," helping hundreds of people remember a 4-year-old girl killed in a road rage shooting on a New Mexico highway as a happy child with a big smile.
About 300 friends and relatives, some in tears, said goodbye to Iliana "Lilly" Rose Garcia at a funeral Mass exactly a week after a gunman shot her in the head shortly after she finished her second day of preschool. But she herself rarely said those words.
Instead, the girl with bright eyes often told others "see you later," her family said in an obituary that recalled the girl's love for blue Icees and reading time.
A small white and light blue coffin stood at the front of the Albuquerque church, a pink My Little Pony stuffed animal resting on top amid a spray of flowers before it was wheeled out of the sanctuary.
"She touched the lives of so many people," Deacon Michael Illerbrun said. "We express our true regrets for this loss."
Lilly's father, Alan Garcia, had just picked up her and her 7-year-old brother from school on Oct. 20 and pulled onto Interstate 40 when he got into an argument with another driver, who opened fire on the family's pickup truck. The fight started with a dispute over a lane change, police said.
Authorities arrested Tony Torrez, 31, a day later and said he confessed to the killing. He has been charged with murder, assault, child abuse and other crimes and is being held on a $650,000 cash-only bond.
At the funeral Tuesday, mourners received a leaflet with a photograph of Lilly on the front and one of her favorite sayings: "Peace and Love, Peace and Love." Her family said in her obituary last week that she liked to sing the phrase. She also liked taking selfies and talking over FaceTime with her grandparents in Nevada.
"Lilly enjoyed singing, dancing, talking with everyone and made friends everywhere she went," the obituary said.
Vehicles lined up in a funeral procession after the funeral Mass, windows scrawled with "Love for Lilly" as they drove across the city.
At a candlelight vigil last weekend, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Albuquerque, hearing from Lilly's parents, Police Chief Gorden Eden and others.
"I would ask that your anger not to turn into hate, but your anger to turn into action," Eden said Saturday. "There's absolutely no reason for a 4-year-old to lose her life in such a manner."
Torrez's public defender, Todd Farkas, said he would issue a statement after Lilly's funeral out of respect for the family.