Sabrina Ray, a sixteen-year-old from Perry, was found deceased at her residence by the Perry Police Department on Friday, May 13. Her residence doubles as the Rays of Sunshine Daycare, a business run by parents of Sabrina, Marc and Misty.
A police investigation opened up and an autopsy was completed by the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner on Monday, May 15. Chief Eric Vaughn announced in a Thursday afternoon press conference that Ray was found weighing fifty-six pounds. The Medical Examiner noted “severe malnutrition,” and results would not be revealed for weeks following laboratory testing.
Additionally, three other children were removed from the residence. Two of the three children were females, ages 10 and 12, both are under medical care.
The Perry community began to mourn.
A candlelight vigil was held on Friday, May 19, a week after the discovery of Sabrina.
“I thought, you know what, we need this,” said Jack Butler, event organizer and Perry City employee. “I didn’t know this girl, but we’re just trying to put a little ease on people; there’s a lot of people who are mad and upset by this.”
The Perry Ministerial Association corresponded with one another on what could happen next for Ray.
“This is a community that is hurting and is caught up in this tragedy and we decided to do an actual memorial service for Sabrina,” Pastor Paul Burrow explained prior to the service.
The event was organized by Pastor Andrea Brownlee and Reverend Paul Burrow. In addition, Reverend Jeremy Winter from Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church, Reverend Marcy Campbell from First Presbyterian Church, retired Reverend Lou Hoger, and Reverend Sherri Hughes-Emple from St. Martins Episcopal Church delivered messages throughout the Tuesday evening service.
“We just know that the community is hurting and we can offer a place to begin healing that hurt,” Pastor Andrea Brownlee said.
A Tuesday evening memorial was announced, filling every seat at the First Christian Church. Perry High School Choir Director, Jenn Nelson, volunteered the treble clef choir group to sing.
Amazing Grace, Lamentations 3:19-26, 31-33 (NRSV), 1 Peter 1:3-9, 13 (NRSV), John 14:1-4 (NRSV), Precious Lord, Take My Hand, Mt. 6:9-13 were heard throughout the memorial service.
At the ending of the service, Letter From a Girl to the World was performed by the predominantly female, high-school choir group. Many comforted one another following the performance.
Five members of the clergy stood in the doorway following the ceremony, next to them, a line of Perry Public Safety officers. Upon leaving, members of the community stopped to talk to officers and thank them for their service.
Many stood in the doorway and comforted one another.
Across the street from the memorial service, a tent was set up and served ice cream, cookies, and drinks to the public. Sixteen balloons, each symbolizing the year of Ray’s life were let off in the air. A “Voice for Sabrina” wall was set up in order to let the community voice their thoughts.
“It impacts everybody differently,” Jacqueline Riekena, community member said. “I think this is the first step in healing a community; it’s close to home.”
During the memorial service, Pastor Brownlee delivered a message in front of the crowd.
“We here in the Perry community are not strangers to heartbreak,” Brownlee said. “We know that unfortunately Sabrina’s loss will not be the last we endure together, but when tragedy happens, we know that we can work together; we can come together to bear the weight of our grief, our anger, our pain, of our suffering.”
The Sabrina Ray investigation is still an ongoing case and if anyone has additional information involving the case, the Perry Police Department ask to be contacted at (515) 465-4636.