Jackson County Child Abuse Network members and members of the public join together for a silent vigil for a Medford 3-year-old who died of injuries Jackson County Child Abuse Network members and others join for a silent vigil to remember a Medford child who died of injuries from suspected child abuse and bring attention to the problem of child abuse generally. About 40 people stood silently for an hour in Vogel Plaza. - Jim Craven

Vigil memorializes youngster

A little girl danced around a bubbling fountain as about 50 people stood silently on the edges of Vogel Plaza, mourning the loss of an almost 3-year-old child who will never again feel the cool spray of water or the warmth of the sun.

"Listen," "Protect," "Justice," read the adults' signs.

Michelle Sauer had a permanent sign to commemorate her grandchild, Kacy Sue Lunsford. Sauer's tattoo was inked one day after Kacy died in a Portland hospital from critical brain injuries she reportedly sustained in an assault by Benjamin James George, 29, of the 2100 block of Crater Lake Avenue, Medford.

Sauer's son, Michael Duda, is Kacy's father. George is the boyfriend of Kacy's mother. George remains jailed on $500,000 bail. He has been charged with first-degree assault.

Sauer wants justice for Kacy, she said.

"I want the police to go over this case with a fine-toothed comb," she said.

The winged heart tattooed on Sauer's right calf bears Kacy's name in the center. Below the heart are Kacy's birth and death dates — 6/27/07 to 6/15/10.

"She wasn't even three years old yet," said Sauer. "She was a beautiful little girl."

Kacy's death prompted Dee Anne Everson, executive director of United Way of Jackson County, to organize Monday's event. We must all learn to listen carefully for the sounds of child abuse, Everson said. At 4:15 p.m., the one-hour silent vigil began. As the minutes slowly ticked by, the temperature soared, sweat beaded on brows and cheeks reddened.

"What I thought about was that Kacy's family will not be able to hear her anymore," said Everson. "We've got to do something big to change this."

Most of the attendees were dressed in shades of blue, the color of ribbons that promote child-abuse awareness month and foster-children month. Several said they hoped their efforts will somehow protect the next child.

"It is important that we be here," said Pam Bergreen, Jackson County Department of Human Services coordinator. "Every child deserves to be treated as the most precious being. Child abuse is simply devastating. And we can and must protect children from abuse."

Sometimes it is the people who are supposed to love you best who perpetrate the worst forms of abuse, said Robin Fusmer. Fusmer's sign was a single stark sentence that told her personal story of child abuse: "My dad gave me to his friend for sex."

Fusmer and her husband, Derek, who have been homeless themselves, give out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, clean clothes and advice to runaway kids in Hawthorne Park on Wednesday afternoons.

"It's really hard to talk about (the sexual abuse)," she said. "But that's why I help those kids in the park.

Eileen Hooper, 82, was one of the oldest participants at Monday's event. Hooper has raised four children in Medford, and is now raising two of her grandchildren, she said. Out for a recent walk with her dog, Hooper said she witnessed a mother bird pretend to have a broken wing. The bird was attempting to draw her and her German Shepherd away from the nest, Hooper said.

"It's heartbreaking when you see animals doing a better job of caring for their young than some humans," Hooper said.

It was Suzie Aguilar's 3-year old daughter, Ellie, who was playing in the plaza water fountain. As she held her 1-year old son, Armani, Aguilar watched her daughter closely, making sure the dancing girl stayed within sight.

"Over here, please," she said. "Stay near."

Aguilar read about Kacy and Monday's vigil in the Mail Tribune, she said.

"I can't imagine anything happening to a 3-year old," Aguilar said. "Or to any child."

Aguilar said she brought her husband and children to the event because she understands what it is to be a child who is not listened to, who is scared, she said.

"I had kind of a rough childhood," Aguilar said. "There was domestic violence and alcoholism. I was spanked really hard. Harder than any child should be hit."

Expressing disappointment with the attendance, Aguilar said she had hoped to see the plaza filled with people supporting children, she said.

"It makes me sad," Aguilar said. "I think it's just a hard thing for people to deal with. I almost didn't come because I didn't know if I could handle it."

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