SAN FRANCISCO – Family and friends gathered Sunday in the Santa Cruz mountains to remember 7-year-old Xiana Fairchild, abducted on her way to school two years ago.
The private prayer service was held in Los Gatos near the site where construction workers found pieces of a human skull in January. DNA tests confirmed the remains belonged to Xiana, deflating the hopes of hundreds of people who had searched for her around the former Navy town of Vallejo, about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco.
The killer still has not been arrested, and police have no suspects.
But those who loved Xiana are using her name to do good. A toy drive was held Sunday to benefit needy children. A candlelight vigil was also planned and attendees were to retrace Xiana’s last known steps.
“She’s just constantly on my mind,” said Stephanie Kahalekulu, Xiana’s great-aunt who raised the girl from infancy. “I think there’s still a bit of disbelief.”
The need to find her niece’s killer was so keen, Kahalekulu sold her belongings and moved her family from Colorado to California last summer to help in the search.
Vallejo too continues to remember Xiana.
“As you know, it ended badly, and that was certainly unfortunate,” said Mark Mazzaferro, the city’s spokesman. But “a lot of people learned that number one, Vallejo cares, because this community really came together and worked hard to find this little girl.”
Children’s books and a corner of the kids’ area at a city library bear Xiana’s name. Volunteers assist other area families looking for their missing children.
“It’s knowledge you never, ever want to have,” Kahalekulu said. “But then when you find a family, you see a family, their child disappears, they have no clue, no clue what to do and that’s exactly where you were two years ago and you can’t just sit there knowing what you know.”
The giggling, gap-toothed Xiana lives on in the videotapes her great-aunt watches over and over.
Strangers still approach Kahalekulu in supermarket parking lots to tell her they’re sorry for her family’s loss.
“Wherever I go,” she said, “somebody will come up and they’re still saying, ’I’m really sorry about what happened, and we’re still praying for justice for her.”’
Xiana’s mother and her boyfriend, Antoinette Robinson and Robert Turnbough, also have drawn police scrutiny, though no charges have been filed and both deny involvement.
Xiana disappeared six months after Robinson reclaimed her in June 1999, against the wishes of other relatives. Turnbough initially told police he’d dropped Xiana off at the bus stop that day, then later said she left the house by herself.
Curtis Dean Anderson, who is serving a 251-year prison sentence for kidnapping and sexually assaulting another young Vallejo girl, is under a “cloud of suspicion,” said Sgt. Mark Eastus of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department. But Anderson’s past declarations that he killed Xiana have been unproven.