Family, town bids farewell to slain 7-year-old

September 26, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The family and friends of 7-year-old Jessica Newell said tearful goodbyes to her Friday.

"Baby, I love you," her mother cried, kissing the small, white coffin at the graveside.

Loud sobs wracked the gathering around the grave side as Deborah Newell said her farewell.

"Mommy will always love you. Jesus will take care of you now," she said.

More than 300 people attended the funeral service for the Baker Heights, W.Va., girl, who was last seen alive on Sept. 18 at the Pikeside Bowl. She was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.

Her body was found in a remote area of North Mountain on Sept. 20.

Jessica's uncle, Michael A. Newell, was charged Monday with kidnapping and murder in her death.

The funeral procession drove past the Eastern Regional Jail, where Michael Newell was being held, on the way to Pleasant View Memory Gardens where she was buried.


On the way to the cemetery, business people and others stood outside of the downtown shops, quiet, respectful. A crowd stood on the courthouse steps. Another crowd was outside a hair salon.

Martinsburg police stopped traffic at intersections but even elsewhere cars in the opposite direction stopped as the drivers paid silent tribute to the child.

"The entire community grieves," the Rev. Michael G. Marsh said earlier during the funeral service.

"We know we hurt because that little flower didn't get a chance to bloom, and because of that the human family has been lessened," Marsh said.

Some of the state police troopers who were involved in the massive search for the missing girl and then the investigation of her slaying were at the funeral. They sat together behind the family, their faces stoic.

"I ask my God why does he allow such a terrible thing to occur?" Marsh said. "We all have a right to lash out and be angry at God. I don't have the answers. But I do have faith. Your faith in God will give you peace for a troubled heart," Marsh said.

"The scriptures say God loves children more than anything else," Marsh said.

"Your little angel is now truly an angel whose voice sings out," Marsh said.

Marsh said her death has raised the consciousness of the community to pay closer attention to the children, to help make them safer.

"Jessie was the child of David and Debbie ... but Jessie also was the community's child," Marsh said.

Jessica's sister, Kellie Cline read a poem as part of the service, her voice breaking in sobs. As she spoke, many in the crowd broke down in tears.

At the graveside, the minister's voice also began to break and he had to pause briefly to compose himself as he said, "Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes."

The girl's mother leaned into her husband's arms and sobbed, "I want my baby."

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