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>>
Tuesday, July 29 2014 5:50 AM EDT2014-07-29 09:50:38 GMT
Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.More >
Listeria is listed on the the baby's death certificate as an immediate cause of her death. Her mother, says that while she was pregnant, she ate food that was part of a recent, nation-wide Listeria recall.More >
Tuesday, July 29 2014 9:25 AM EDT2014-07-29 13:25:55 GMT
President Barack Obama is taking four Kansas City residents out to dinner to chew over the concerns of heartland Americans. More >
President Barack Obama is taking four Kansas City residents out to dinner to chew over the concerns of heartland Americans, with little time remaining for action on pressing issues before Congress begins its August recess.More >
Tuesday, July 29 2014 9:20 AM EDT2014-07-29 13:20:44 GMT
Police said an 11-year-old Independence boy died following a wreck in Independence that sent multiple people to the hospital Friday morning.More >
Relatives of 11-year old Noah Stratton, killed in an accident in Independence last Friday, say they are grieving deeply, but have only fond memories of young Noah whom they call "The greatest 11-year-old in the world."
They were born just two weeks apart. A 10-week-old baby and 8-week-old pit bull have a fascinating relationship. They absolutely adore each other! Louisiana native Brandi Hodges, 25, has posted photosMore >
A 10-week-old baby and 8-week-old Pitbull have a fascinating relationship. They absolutely adore each other!More >