VANCOUVER, Wash. — A heartbroken community of friends, family and loved ones gathered at Evergreen Memorial Gardens on Wednesday to say their goodbyes to Meshay Melendez and her 7-year-old daughter, Layla Stewart.
This week, Kirkland Warren, the man accused of killing the Vancouver mother and her young daughter in March, pleaded not guilty during a formal arraignment in Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver. He will remain in custody, without bail, until his next court appearance, scheduled for next month.
On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of people filled the small chapel for the private service. After starting with prayers and song, there was a slideshow of photos that captured a fraction of the mother and daughter's lives and how loved they were by so many.
"I never would have thought that I would've had to go one without both of them," said one of Meshay's friends.
"I admired her my entire life," said one of her cousins. "To lose her like this is like... I feel like I've lost a piece of my soul."
Through the tears and shared laughs, family members told stories about how Meshay was free-spirited, a true friend, and open and caring. Her daughter, Layla, was her world and was a curious child filled with joy.
"Layla and Meshay's beautiful smiles will forever remain in our hearts," said Ricardo Melendez. "They are together always in heaven, as they were together as one, her on Earth."
The mother and daughter were buried together at the Evergreen Memorial Gardens cemetery.