HOUSTON (KTRK) --Near the apartment complex where a 4-year-old girl was shot and killed this week in north Harris County, nearly a hundred people gathered on this chilly Saturday night for a prayer vigil in her memory.
Many of them were friends and family members of Ava Castillo, the rest strangers who were moved by the tragedy.
A few days ago, Diana Gomez and her three children were returning home when they were approached by a gunman. It's believed he and several other men targeted the family. He demanded Gomez give him her purse.
"She had a cross strap on it," said one family member. "She didn't refuse him. She just couldn't undo it quickly enough."
HCSO: Robbers fatally shoot 4-year-old over mom's purse
Gomez was shot seven times as she tried to shield her children. Her son escaped injury. Daughter Betsy, age 10, was wounded, but is now out of the hospital. Ava died of her injuries.
Saturday morning, the stolen car believed to have been taken by the same suspect and some accomplices was recovered in Cypress. The Honda Accord had been stolen in a carjacking not long before the family was attacked.
The victim in that case had his young daughter in the car with him. "I could have not reacted fast enough for them, or they could've thought I wasn't reacting fast enough, and that could have been us," he said.
Ava's sister was at the vigil, holding a burning candle alongside other people in the crowd. Her father told the group his family is devastated. His wife remains hospitalized after undergoing several operations to repair damage to her organs, including her liver.
Suspect's vehicle found in the murder of 4-year-old Ava Castillo
The child's aunt, Julie Gomez, looked at the people who brought flowers, balloons and stuffed animals to a memorial site in her niece's honor. "It's amazing how many people out there who care and want to help and who also want justice for Ava.
The discovery of the stolen car is a hopeful sign in finding justice, but Gomez and others can't fathom how anyone could shoot a mother and her three young children.
"How can he sleep at night?" Gomez asked. "Does he not have a conscience? I wish he'd come forward -- just man up and do the right thing."