HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A vigil was held Saturday in honor of 8-year-old Kendrick Lee, the little boy whose body was found Sunday, a year after he was beaten to death inside a west Harris County apartment complex along with his abandoned brothers.
Alief community activist Joseph Dinnon, also known as Capo Joe, was one of the speakers at the weekend event. He said it was important for the community to come together to grieve and honor the child's memory while standing together to call for justice and change.
"We got to come together and we have to speak up," Dinnon said. "There were people in these apartments that did speak up, you know what I'm saying, but like I was telling them, sometimes you have to go above and beyond."
According to Harris County Sheriff's Office, Lee was beaten to death shortly before Thanksgiving last year. His body was left in an apartment along with his three brothers, who investigators said were abandoned and forced to fend for themselves for almost a year.
Hedy Carter said she has known the family for more than 40 years and even watched the boys' mother, Gloria Williams, grow up.
Carter said she made multiple attempts to contact Williams over the past year, and at one point, her calls were blocked.
"This week has just been horrific," Carter said. "It's heart-wrenching, devastating and we're trying to just day-by-day make it through this ordeal. Every time we'd get close to her (Williams), she'd go. Get close, she'd go. We didn't understand why at the time, but as you see this whole year of events, we know why now. She didn't want anybody to know what had happened, how it happened, when it happened, so we were like 'What's going on?'"
Carter described Lee as an obedient, sweet and loving little boy.
Among the crowd at the vigil, was 10-year-old Josh Todd. Todd used to play with the young boys when his grandmother lived at the apartment complex. His mother, Shadarra Todd, said they wanted to attend Saturday's event to pay their respects.
"It's tough," Todd said. "Those children are going to have it hard, most likely, the remainder of their lives, so it's definitely heartbreaking."
Todd said she's had to have tough conversations with her son about what to do and how to speak up when something is going on.
"Bringing my child out here to let him know, all of these kids, that they are loved," Todd said. "That they have someone to go to. The community came out today. Even if you feel like you can't go to your parents, you know, maybe talk to a friend, talk to a neighbor. If something is ever going on, talk to a teacher. You have to let someone know."
Matthew Mouton created a custom tribute for Kendrick Lee that read, 'Protect Our Children' along with pictures of the 8-year-old, surrounded by candles and mementoes.
"I don't want these children's names or faces to be forgotten," Mouton said. "Just stop the violence. Every day when I create one of these, and I think it's going to be the last one, and it's always two, three, four, five, and it's getting out of control, and we need to come together as a community and stop it."
Resources to report child abuse or neglect:
24-hour, toll-free abuse hotline, 1-800-252-5400.
24-hour, 7-days a week national hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD or 1-800-422-4453.