Dozens of community members gathered Sunday evening for a candlelight vigil to remember 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, the Canton girl who was found murdered one year ago.
The remembrance service was organized by a volunteer of the YMCA in Canton and a friend of Jorelys' mother.
Speaking through a translator, Jorelys' mother, Jocelyn, said the past year has not been easy but the love of her two young daughters, ages 2 and 5, have helped her through it.
"She has really come a long way, and I am so proud of her," said friend Amy Turcotte. "She is a good mom and loves her girls."
Jorelys was abducted and killed by a maintenance worker at her apartment complex on Dec. 2, 2011. Ryan Brunn pleaded guilty to murder then hanged himself in jail shortly after he was sentenced.
An investigation criticized Canton police for having no sense of urgency in the search for Jorelys after she disappeared and failing to call in extra police help.
Since the investigation, a new police chief has taken over and enforced policies and procedures.
"It was very clear that we had to change our mindset," said Chief Robert Merchant. "When we went out there, we needed to treat every case as if it was our own."
Merchant and several other police officers attended Sunday's vigil.
"I think this is an event that touched the entire community and the Canton Police Department," said Merchant. "I think it was the right thing to do to be out here tonight."
The Cherokee County sheriff was the one who stepped in and called in the GBI after the botched investigation by Canton police. One deputy was reprimanded after he and a trainee failed to notice blood in an apartment they searched after Jorelys disappeared.
However, the sheriff's office said its policies and procedures are sound.
"One thing that has occurred here is there's a greater sense of teamwork in the county among the various law enforcement agencies," said Lt. Col. Ron Hunton. "We're blessed in this county to have a great relationship with every law enforcement agency here."
Friends said the community has pulled together since the tragic murder.
"Despite when something bad happens, God can still turn clouds into rainbows," said Turcotte.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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