A Vigil For Brisenia: Snohomish County Remembers Arizona Girl Slain By One Of Their Own

On Wednesday, some people in Everett -- the hometown of Shawna Forde -- held a vigil in memory of Brisenia Flores, Forde's 9-year-old victim from Arivaca, Arizona. My friend Scott North was there to cover the event: EVERETT -- They mourned

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On Wednesday, some people in Everett -- the hometown of Shawna Forde -- held a vigil in memory of Brisenia Flores, Forde's 9-year-old victim from Arivaca, Arizona. My friend Scott North was there to cover the event:

EVERETT -- They mourned the death of a little girl Wednesday; a child whose life ended three years ago in a robbery orchestrated by an Everett woman she'd never met.

Brisenia Flores was 9. She'd just completed third grade. The principal at her school in Arivaca, Ariz., remembers her smile, her enthusiasm and love for animals.

She died along with her father, Raul "Junior" Flores, because of hateful ideas that took root here, more than 1,600 miles away, a crowd of about 80 human rights activists, elected officials and others were told.

"We stand here as a community to say 'Never again,'" said Meg Winch, who heads the Snohomish County Commission on Human Rights.

This sort of observance is a little unusual, given that Brisenia lived hundreds of miles and several states away. But it was put together by some thoughtful advocates here who recognize that Shawna Forde's career began here, not there:

State Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, was among the handful of people who confronted Forde in 2007 at an Everett gathering that was billed as a summit to combat illegal immigration. Forde found plenty of support for racism and ideas that divided communities, he said.

"We wonder now what we might have done to prevent this from happening," he said.

Respect for civil rights and human decency need to be the values embraced here, County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said. He recalled how his mother lit candles and prayed for the nation the day in 1968 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

"This little girl is no less important," Sullivan said.

Everett High School senior Leobardo Carmona said that when he first heard about Forde and her crimes, he figured the woman had to be out of her mind.

Then he learned that she had received nearly 6,000 votes when she ran for Everett City Council in 2007, campaigning largely on a platform that argued not enough was being done in Everett to confront illegal immigration.

"I was mad, surprised and really disappointed," he said.

There is another important subtext to the vigil as well: Shawna Forde left behind victims here, too. Before her career in criminality blossomed into child murder, she also attempted to have her then-husband murdered. And the subsequent slipshod investigation by Everett Police essentially freed her to move her act down to Arizona.

I discussed this in a Herald piece that ran Saturday:

In the course of conducting interviews, people inevitably like to ask the interviewer questions. And I was asked repeatedly by nearly everyone in Arivaca some version of the following question: "How could you people in western Washington have allowed this woman to get away with crimes up there and then come down here and kill a little girl and her father?"

... For what it's worth, I was never able to adequately answer these questions from people in Arivaca. Why this case was so poorly investigated by the Everett Police Department is anybody's guess. But it is an inescapable fact that their laxity in pursuing the murder attempt on John Forde freed Shawna Forde to plan and commit her nefarious deed in Arivaca.

Of course, all this is removed from the immediate purview of Snohomish County and its officials, since this is officially an Everett matter. But as we contemplate "preventing such hate-based crimes in the future," it's essential to recognize that the failure to vigorously pursue prosecution of these kinds of criminals in the early stages of their development is going to undermine any such preventative effort.

We'll see what comes of the vigil. The early signs are hopeful: Everett Police are now at least acknowledging that the case is unsolved but active. Now it remains to be seen if they will do their jobs and solve it.

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