Tuesday, students and teachers at Shaner Early Learning Academy are remembering Felix, whose life was cut short. The vibrant 5-year-old used to attend school at Shaner, and now a yellow, blooming marigold tree was planted here to blossom every year in her memory. Shaner Early Learning Academy Principal Regan Baxter shared a letter with school staff and families on Wednesday, Oct. 11, inviting staff and families to attend the dedication.
“Zoey was kind, she was always ready to lend a helping hand,” Baxter said. “She will always be remembered as a wonderful Shaner star.”
A pink and purple ribbon was cut to dedicate the tree, which they say were Felix’s favorite colors. The tree is supposed to symbolize the love, joy and happiness that Felix was known for sharing with her classmates. Although Felix’s teacher Sasha Camacho couldn’t attend the dedication in person, her mother, Rayna Rocha, attended on her behalf.
“She says she was very friendly, and always wanting to help everybody,” Rocha said. “She was a ‘mother hen’.”
Last Tuesday, Felix’s body was found not far from a campsite she was believed to be staying at with her father and sister after neighbors say the group was kicked out of their home. Investigators charged 25-year-old Mickel Cherry, of Topeka, with her rape and murder.
The tragic death also leaves many questions, like why wasn’t Felix in school?
“I don’t understand how a child can’t be enrolled in school,” neighbor Elisha Schriner said.
According to a spokesman for Topeka Public Schools, Felix was enrolled last year in August and was voluntarily withdrawn by a parent on March 31 this year. Also, kids that are Felix’s age aren’t required to attend school in Kansas. Mandated attendance starts at age 7.
“I think all kids need to be in school,” Schriner said. “The sooner the better. Let them learn and make friends, especially kids that don’t have a very good home life.”
Neighbors also say they made several calls about Felix’s home life to the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) but that those calls went ignored. DCF child protective investigators are charged with looking into whether abuse or neglect may have contributed to Felix’s death.
KSNT 27 News is waiting to get more answers on this case, which is moving forward. A motion hearing is set for Dec. 13, where 27 News is expecting the man charged with capital murder for Felix’s death to appear in court.