ELKHART — Kristyana Jackson would have turned 8 years old today, April 22.
Kimi and John Jackson say their daughter, like any other child, always looked forward to her birthday.
“She was all smiles around this time,” John Jackson said. “She definitely knew that day was coming up, because she knew we had something planned.”
They usually celebrated her and her grandmother’s birthday together. Last year the family went to Kalahari Waterpark, in Sandusky, Ohio, to celebrate her birthday. They also bought her a bike.
This year, Kimi and John will take cupcakes to Mary Daly Elementary today in Kristyana’s name. Later in the day they might have a small gathering, including family and close friends.
Kristyana died Aug. 19, 2012, two days after she was shot in the head during an assault. Since then, no day is different from another for Kimi and John. Every day is filled with pain for their loss, and the constant reminder to live to the fullest, because “you never know what day could be your last,” John said.
It has been eight months, and not much has changed in their lives. They have their same jobs, their living room still has some of Kristyana’s toys stacked on one of the corners.
“I’ve been slowly taking things out of the corner, “ Kimi said.
The Jacksons are trying to move on, for themselves and for their 15-month-old son, John Jr.
“It may get better, down the road, but I remember (the incident) like it just happened,” John said. “That’s just something you have to deal with and live everyday life. It’s rough, but what can you do?”
They continue to communicate with police regularly. John said he tries to call the detective in charge of the investigation every Monday, just to know if police have any new leads. Kimi said the police department will also call them to let them know of any new developments.
“They’ve been very supportive and very understanding and adamant about catching her killer,” said Kimi.
Assistant Chief Laura Koch, with the Elkhart Police Department, said there is no new information that can be shared with the public.
The community has been supportive since the day of the incident. Neighbors held a vigil just a day after Kristyana died, and several businesses have held fundraisers for the family. Teachers and students also gathered in November to plant a tree in honor of Kristyana.
It was in part because of the money that was gathered that a $6,000 reward was set up via Crime Stoppers for any information leading to the arrest of those involved in the Aug. 17, 2012, assault.
Kimi said the family continues to receive cards or letter of support every now and then, a constant reminder to them that they are not alone. The Jacksons still talk with staff and some of Kristyana’s friends at Mary Daly often. The children will tell them they miss her.
Dermeaka Parish, a childhood friend of Kimi, constantly stays in touch with the Jacksons, and on Friday night she stopped by to visit the family.
“She is truly missed,” she said. “She was an exceptional little girl, you just had to know her.”