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Former Hagerstown 9-year-old brutally slain in Indiana remembered as 'bubbly little girl'

Grief counseling to be offered to Winter Street Elementary students

December 30, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Kymberley Schwartz, 9, of Hagerstown reads the message she wrote on a balloon to her late friend, Aliahna Lemmon, Thursday before releasing the balloons in her backyard.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Grief counselors will be available at Winter Street Elementary School in Hagerstown when Christmas break ends next week to help students cope with the death of a 9-year-old former student who was killed and dismembered last week in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Hagerstown resident Rhonda Schwartz said she wants her daughter, Kymberley Schwartz, to take full advantage of the service. She said Kymberley and the murdered girl, Aliahna Lemmon, quickly became best friends after meeting on the school playground during the 2010-11 school year.

Aliahna was a student at Winter Street school from January to June 2011, said Richard Wright, a spokesman for Washington County Public Schools.

"The counseling department will work with the principal," Wright said. "We'll always make grief counseling available" in situations like these.

Indiana authorities said Monday night that Aliahna Lemmon had been found dead and that Mike Plumadore, who was watching Aliahna and her two sisters when she went missing Dec. 23, was being held on a murder charge. He and Aliahna's family lived in the same mobile home park in Fort Wayne.

Plumadore faces a preliminary charge of murder. He made a brief initial court appearance on Tuesday and was ordered held without bond. He is due back in court next week.

The Schwartzes said they miss Aliahna, who they said wore a hearing aid and was picked on by some of her classmates.

"I asked her if she wanted to play and she said, 'Yeah,'" Kymberley Schwartz said. "We were best friends .... We liked to sing on the karaoke machine, and we liked to write on posters. We liked to ride our bikes and jump on the trampoline."

"The girls would come up here after school and do homework," Rhonda Schwartz said. "She liked to sing Taylor Swift (songs) on the karaoke machine ... She never let her problems slow her down. She was a bubbly little girl."

Rhonda Schwartz said Aliahna moved to Indiana in July with her mother.

Aliahna's mother, Tarah Souders, moved to Indiana to care for her sick father, who subsequently died in early December, according to published reports.

Aliahna and her sisters were staying with Plumadore, who was a family friend, because their mother had been sick with the flu, and Aliahna's stepfather works at night and sleeps during the day, The Associated Press reported.

Rhonda Schwartz said her daughter and Aliahna had planned to talk over the phone on Christmas Day to share stories about their presents.

Coping with the loss of her friend has been difficult for Kymberley.

Rhonda Schwartz said her daughter falls asleep crying and asks why Aliahna suffered such a cruel death.

"She sleeps with me every night. I can't explain why someone would do that," Rhonda Schwartz said. "She keeps asking, 'Why?' Some of the questions she's asking, I don't have answers for."

Plumadore admitted to killing Aliahna in the early morning hours of Dec. 22 by repeatedly striking her in the head with a brick, according to a probable cause affidavit. Plumadore told authorities he put the girl's body inside trash bags and put it in a freezer in the trailer he lived in that formerly belonged to the girl's grandfather.

Plumadore told authorities that later that day and early on Dec. 23 he used a hacksaw to dismember the girl's body.

The Associated Press quoted Allen County (Ind.) Coroner E. Jon Brandenberger as saying parts of the girl's body were found in a trash container outside a convenience store — the same store where a surveillance camera video showed Plumadore went early Dec. 23 to buy a cigar. Plumadore told authorities he hid her head, hands and feet in the freezer at her grandfather's trailer.

Brandenberger said he won't be able to determine the cause of death for Aliahna until further tests are completed, including microscopic findings and toxicology results, The AP reported.

Allen County (Ind.) Sheriff Ken Fries said Plumadore told investigators on Monday where the girl's body could be found, ending the hopes of authorities that Aliahna would be found safe.

Rhonda Schwartz said she and her daughter have released two balloons at their Elgin Boulevard Home in memory of Aliahna. The first, which was released Tuesday, was a Tinker Bell balloon because Aliahna loved the "Peter Pan" character.

They released the second balloon on Wednesday with a message that read: "Ali, I love you and I miss you. Love, Kymmie."

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