Memories of Miana

Friends, family celebrate slain girl's life on her 15th birthday

Friends, family celebrate slain girl's life on her 15th birthday

November 29, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION


It's been more than a month since Miana Stewart was slain in her Gerrardstown, W.Va. home, and people still turn out by the dozens to remember her and express shock over her death.

More than 100 people attended a ceremony Monday night at Musselman High School to remember Stewart on what would have been her 15th birthday.

A crowd gathered outside the front entrance to the school as ministers, friends, Miana's father and others read poems, some of Stewart's school assignments and recounted special memories of her.


"Today was not an easy day for us," Miana's father, Randy Stewart, told the crowd.

But Stewart said the day became easier when he began seeing all the people who were close friends with Miana.

Randy Stewart announced that more than $4,000 has been raised to donate to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department in honor of the four officers who worked on the case.

Stewart also announced that the family will be starting a scholarship at Musselman High School in honor of Miana.

"Everyone deserves to know who she was," Randy Stewart said.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" and each person lighted a candle and held it. People were directed to make a wish in memory of Miana and blow out the candles.

Then, 15 purple and pink balloons were released into the air.

Miana was killed in her home Oct. 13, allegedly by a man who told police he intended to burglarize the home. Miana was found gagged and tied to a weightlifting bench in the basement of her home, according to police.

Roger Dwayne Smith, 24, of Martinsburg, W.Va., the man charged in Miana's death, earlier waived his right to have a preliminary hearing on charges of felony murder, daytime burglary and malicious wounding.

The decision means Smith's case will be forwarded to Circuit Court for possible grand jury indictment.

Friends and family members came together Monday at 6 p.m. for a "Celebration of Life" in memory of Miana, who was a ninth-grader at Musselman High.

Before the ceremony started, friends and family members gathered, some hugging each other. At a podium set up at the front door, a large banner stretched across the front of a table with Miana's picture on one side and a picture of a horse on the other.

"We love you Miana. Always in our hearts," read the banner.

A public address system played Miana's favorite music as speakers waited to address the crowd.

Tim Butler, a local pastor, read some of Miana's written class assignments.

Miana was known for her Christian lifestyle, and Butler read an assignment in which Miana was told to list items she would take with her if she was deserted on an island.

The first thing Miana listed was a Bible.

"That says something, doesn't it?" asked Butler, adding that a teacher noted on the assignment that Miana was the only student to list a Bible.

Randy Stewart read to the crowd a poem about Miana in which he remarked about her special character and the suffering he is enduring.

"I feel the pain of a broken heart, and I don't know what to do," Stewart said.

Miana has been described as having an angelic character, perpetual smile and the ability to spark something special within the people she met.

"You were far beyond your years in knowing wrong from right," Stewart said his poem.

Those who gathered for the service included Jason Horner, a cousin of Miana's who lives in Gerrardstown.

Horner was videotaping the event and planned to give the recording to her family.

"It's still a shock and (I) can't believe it," Horner said of Miana's death.

Beth Adams of Martinsburg said she came to the ceremony to support Miana's family. Adams said her daughter, Kaila, played basketball with Miana for several years.

"There's not a day that doesn't go by that we don't think about Miana and her family," Adams said.

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