Residents gathered Thursday for the first of two candlelight vigils for Blake Litton who died just shy of his fourth birthday.
A photographer who worked on recording Blake's life from his first days is devastated by his death. Blake was scheduled to pose for photos Saturday to mark his birthday.
He would have turned 4 Monday. Instead, his funeral was Wednesday after authorities said he tragically became a victim of child abuse.
"Blake was always full of energy. He was always on his best behavior when he was here," said Jessica Johnson who works at MainStreet Studio and Gallery in Higginsville. "He was full of smiles. He was always happy go lucky."
Stover residents said they want to remember the little boy and raise awareness about child abuse. Prosecutors said Blake died earlier this month after he was brutally beaten by his mother's boyfriend and his mother did nothing to get him the medical attention he needed.
Thomas Joseph "T.J." Presley, 21, of Stover, and the toddler's 25-year-old mother, Jamie Ann Miller Litton, were charged a week ago with second-degree murder. Litton also faces two counts of first-degree child endangerment.
Authorities said Blake's 3-year-old sister, Faith Emma Litton, had suffered serious injuries in the days leading up to Blake's death.
"I knew she would never win mother-of-the-year awards, but I never never ever thought it would come to this," Johnson told KCTV5.
Jennifer Fahrer, who helped organize Thursday night's vigil, said the message is child abuse will not be tolerated. Ribbons and signs remembering Blake dot the town.
"We just want to protect our children," Crystal Goard said. "We are a close-knit community and we like to work together and we want to help each other out."
Organizers vow they want to prevent another child abuse death in Morgan County. Marchers came from across the area in hopes of making a difference and remembering a sweet little boy.
"We need to protect our kids. If that means walking a mile, 5 miles, 50 miles, I'm going to walk," said Versailles resident Shannon Oblinger. "We have a 3-year-old old of our own, so this is something that needs to be dealt with. No child should have to go through with this."
Melissa Johnson said the community is grappling with Blake's death.
"It's hard to understand. It's very hard," she said. "He was a baby. He'll never get to go to kindergarten. It's just very sad."
A second vigil will be held Friday night in Sweet Springs, MO, where Blake's father, Robbin Litton, lives.
Blake's obituary said he enjoyed playing T-ball, horses, the harmonica and going to Sunday school.
In addition to Faith, Blake is survived by two older sisters, Alexis and Holly Bridges.
His paternal aunt suggested his parents sign Blake up for MainStreet's First Steps program. Pictures were taken every three months during the first year of his life.
Johnson said Blake's parents were very much in love when he was first born.
"They were so happy and in love," she said. "They were a young couple with several kids."
Sadly, the marriage busted up and Jamie Litton became involved with Presley.
Johnson was devastated when she learned about Blake's death, and horrified by the circumstances. She said she has reached out to Blake's aunt to offer support during an unbearable time.
"Emotions are running high," she said.
She will always remember how Blake was a loving brother to his younger sister during their photo sessions. She said they had similar bubbly personalities.
"The world definitely lost an angel that day," Johnson said.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Missouri couple charged with toddler's deathAccused child killer says he 'just lost it,' describes horrific details of Blake's deathVIDEO: Blake's stepparents say his mother "absolutely a monster"More>>
Saturday, April 12 2014 6:07 AM EDT2014-04-12 10:07:09 GMT
An incredible photo snapped Saturday at the iconic Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is going viral. A mother humpback whale and her calf were cruising just offshore when a set rolled in. J.T. Gray of NorthMore >
An incredible photo snapped Saturday at the iconic Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is going viral.More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 2:06 PM EDT2014-04-16 18:06:48 GMT
An ailing Miley Cyrus has canceled her concert Tuesday night at Sprint Center.The notice came a matter of hours before she was scheduled to go on stage.A concert promoter tells KCTV5 that Cyrus is in theMore >
An ailing Miley Cyrus remains in a Kansas City hospital and says she must cancel her St. Louis concert slated for Wednesday night. This comes after she unexpectedly canceled her Tuesday night concert in Kansas City. More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 7:33 PM EDT2014-04-16 23:33:12 GMT
Officials say at least one person is dead following a wreck at the Interstate 70 turnpike Wednesday afternoon.The crash was reported at eastbound I-70 and Interstate 635 about 12:30 p.m.Refresh this pageMore >
Officials say a woman was killed when she jumped from a moving vehicle on Interstate 70 on Wednesday afternoon.More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:44 AM EDT2014-04-16 14:44:38 GMT
Lisa Teachman is joining KCTV5 as a meteorologist and traffic reporter."I am so excited and thrilled to be working with the most accurate weather team in Kansas City," Teachman said. An on-air meteorologistMore >
Lisa Teachman is joining KCTV5 as a meteorologist and traffic reporter. She debuts on It's Your Morning next week. More >
Friday, April 11 2014 6:08 PM EDT2014-04-11 22:08:56 GMT
A year-long, multi-agency investigation resulted in the arrest of 28 people for charges ranging from murder to racketeering. Law enforcement officers from the Baton Rouge Police Department, East BatonMore >
A year-long, multi-agency investigation resulted in the indictment of 28 people for charges ranging from murder to racketeering.More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:30 AM EDT2014-04-16 09:30:07 GMT
A Good Samaritan shot six times trying to stop a robbery says he never got a penny from a fund set up in his name. It's been a year and Yousaf Haroon still doesn't know how much was raised or where thatMore >
A Good Samaritan shot six times trying to stop a robbery says he never got a penny from a fund set up in his name, but he isn't bitter. More >