Few dry eyes as 8-month-old Lakayla Janae Rodgers laid to rest

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 15, 2002

Teary eyed little girls in long white satin dresses and little boys attired in black led the stream of mourners past the tiny casket of Lakayla Janea Rodgers Friday afternoon as the 8-month-old was eulogized at her funeral service. Everyone in the baby’s family was present to say goodbye to her except her father, Jamaine Rodgers.

In the chapel Friday afternoon at T.E. Cooke-Overton Funeral Home, it somehow seemed appropriate when small children fidgeted and tried to wriggle from their mothers’ arms as they cried to get loose and run free. Patiently, one mother soothed her small son, eyes on the tiny coffin of the dead baby, gently stroking her own baby’s head, soothing sounds emanating from her throat as she held her son closely to her breast. Each mother in the chapel seemed determined to reassure their children that they are loved.

As for other adults at the service, hardly an eye was clear as they listened to scripture referring to Jesus and his great love of children. They wept as the preacher told them the words Jesus said, &uot;Suffer the little children to come unto me.&uot; They all spoke, &uot;amen,&uot; when the Rev. Emmanuel Myrick, told the mourners, &uot;whomsoever shall offend one of these little ones is better off to have a millstone around his neck.&uot;

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Emotions ran high in the congregation as Dr. Melvin R. Boone offered words of encouragement to Angela Marie Knight and the family of baby Rodgers.

&uot;Be strong for (other daughters) Yasmenne and Jayla,&uot; said Dr. Boone. &uot;We don’t understand… we don’t know why this took place… we must forgive.&uot;

Knight wept as family members held tightly to her where she sat in front of her infant daughter’s small white casket. Her shoulders shook as Dr. Boone encouraged the mourners to &uot;pray for Angela.&uot;

Myrick also advised Knight to ignore the negative comments cast in her direction, to concentrate on God and pray to Him.

The preacher also spoke of how Knight &uot;put her hope and confidence in someone other than the Lord.&uot;

Suffolk police have charged Jamaine Rodgers, 22, Lakayla’s father, with her death.

Forensic examination at Norfolk’s Crime Lab showed the baby died as a result of blunt force trauma blows to her abdomen. She bled to death internally, the report said.

The examination also showed that it was not the first beating the baby had endured. Old injuries, still healing, and bruises on the tiny body and head were still discernable to examiners at the lab.

Suffolk Police were first called to the home where the baby lived with her mother, Rodgers and two sisters in the 300 block of South Wellons Street when the baby was found lying face up and not breathing Saturday morning, Nov. 9. It was first believed that the baby had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SYDS).

Rodgers was taken into custody and now sits in Western Tidewater Regional Jail, charged with felony homicide, felony child abuse, child neglect, and failure to seek medical attention for the infant.

He was noticeably absent from his daughter’s funeral Friday, after his attorney, Public Defender Tim Miller, withdrew a request for bond earlier Friday morning in Suffolk Circuit Court. For his own protection, Rodgers is being held in a jail cell away from other inmates.

Rodgers awaits a trial set for Dec. 3, in which many questions about the baby’s death may come to light.

Knight’s two other daughters were taken from her by the Suffolk Department of Social Services.

Near the close of Friday’s service for the little girl, Funeral Director Cora Overton went to prepare the baby for viewing. She donated the 36-inch white casket.

Overton placed a small satin pillow beneath the tiny girl’s head, sat a white teddy bear beside her, and draped the casket with a gossamer film of satin that made the baby look as ethereal as any angel. Angela Knight had to be supported by many as she went to say goodbye.

When. Myrick ended his sermon, he spoke from the Bible, &uot;weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.&uot; The morning has come; however, little Lakayla Janea Rodgers is gone forever.