WATERLOO — Ray Sherman “Sherm” Hill wouldn’t have had a memorial for his murdered daughter anywhere else.
A community event celebrating the life of Mikaela Bond Hill, 22, mother of three, was held at the Furgerson-Fields Park shelter. It was just a few yards from a black stone bench memorializing Mikaela’s cousin, Donnisha Hill, murdered in 2006 at age 13.
It was an appropriate place for the family to gather, Sherman Hill said.
Donnisha’s murderers were brought to justice. One, David Damm, died in prison. The other, Bruce Edward Burt, is serving a life sentence. Sherman Hill would like to see the same justice for his daughter.
He has many questions — and so far, no answers — about why someone fired at the Hope Avenue home where his daughter and her children lived June 3, killing her.
But Tuesday, he said, was a day to lay his daughter to rest, celebrate her life and find some inspiration from the tragedy. And to be surrounded by family.
“It’s a mourning time right now,” Sherman Hill said. “There’s a lot of things that have been done wrong. But I’m getting people to put it past them so we can celebrate her going away. I’m starting to get some closure to my heart.
“At first, I was upset about everything. But she’s going to a better place. I just want them to stop the violence,” Hill said.
“There’s a lot of things that have went on here we need some questions and some answers to — like, what are the police doing?” Sherman Hill continued. “Are they handling this? We need some help out here, you know?”
Waterloo Police Capt. David Mohlis said investigators are following leads, but no arrests have been made. “It’s still a very active investigation,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Waterloo police at 291-4340.
“I’m just trying to stay humble and get some answers to this. Somebody who knew something about it,” Hill said. “We need someone to step up and say something to these kids, give them somewhere to go.”
“It’s terrible, to have to bury my daughter before she buried me,” Hill said. “It was a senseless killing.”
Several local ministers and community leaders spoke at the event, including the Rev. Willie Campbell of Chrystal Cathedral of Faith Southern Baptist Church; the Rev. Belinda Creighton-Smith of Faith Temple Baptist Church; Vera Wallican of Payne Memorial AME Church; Nation of Islam Minister Michael Muhammad; LaTanya Graves of the Black Hawk County NAACP and the Rev. Helen Seenster of Koinonia Ministries Full Gospel Baptist Church.
All echoed Sherman Hill’s call for engagement of young people, listening to their wants and needs while setting some standards in word and deed for them to live by. They stressed the need to talk to authorities as well as young people in an effort to stop the violence. Muhammad specifically called for a “paradigm change” in how the community in general and the African-American community specifically, view themselves — as having self worth and being worthy of success. All called for a renewal of religious faith.
Family members and attendees wore T-shirts with Mikaela’s picture. The event concluded with a balloon release as Campbell led attendees in singing R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
The singing continued as a strong breeze lifted the balloons high into the air toward the northwest, in the direction of Garden of Memories Cemetery, where Mikaela’s services were held earlier in the afternoon.
“My heart is full,” Sherman Hill said after the ceremony, embracing family and friends.