A funeral was held Wednesday evening for the 15-month-old Indiana girl who was brutally raped and smothered to death last week.
About 200 people including family and friends wearing purple and pink ribbons attended the somber ceremony at the Christian Life Center in Spencer for Shaylyn Ammerman.
Earlier in the day, more than 50 law enforcement officers filed into the center for a public viewing to pay their respects.
“It helped with some of our closure,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Curt Durnil tells PEOPLE. “It has been a tough one. Dealing with something so intimately for the past week has been really tough on our folks and the family was nice enough to give us the opportunity to come in separate from the public to pay our respects as well. It was a solemn thing. We came in single file with hats off.”
Durnil says Shaylyn lay in an open casket covered in a blanket surrounded by flowers and stuffed animals.
“We are all fathers or mothers who are working this case,” he says. “We have kids of our own and some of our kids are this age, which makes it even tougher. It has really taken this community by storm.”
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The girl was reported missing from her father’s home in Spencer March 23. Her body was found the next day in a rural wooded area near the White River in a remote section of Gosport.
Kyle Parker, 22, has been charged with murder, kidnapping, rape, child molesting, aggravated battery, strangulation, obstruction of justice, failure to report a dead body and unlawful disposition of a body. He has entered a plea of not guilty and is being held at the Owen County Jail with no bond. He is due back in court in May.
Prosecutors allege Parker, a friend of Shaylyn’s uncle Adam, snatched Shaylyn right out of her crib and then drove the child to an isolated area where he raped her in the front seat of his car.
According to court records, Parker initially pointed the finger at Adam but later allegedly told police he suffocated the little girl with a blanket he kept in his car.
A doctor who performed the autopsy characterized the toddler’s alleged rape and strangulation as “the worst case of sexual trauma” she has ever encountered, court records state.
“She was my first granddaughter and she was my pride and joy,” says Shaylyn’s grandmother, Tamara Morgan. “She was a silly little girl who loved to dance. The slightest tone of music would come on and she would start bouncing up and down, doing a little dance. She loved music… she was just the happiest baby in the world.”
Morgan says her son Adam is blaming himself for Shaylyn’s abduction and slaying.
“This is really tearing him up big time, because, of course, he is blaming himself for inviting Kyle over,” Morgan says. “We have so much support in our family and we’re all behind him. We all live in and around Spencer. Most of the family was born and raised here. This sort of thing doesn’t happen here. It’s never happened in this town before. This type of thing happens in the big city, not in Spencer, Indiana.”