Family mourns after 19-year-old is found dead in KCK

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:06 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCTV) - A family of refugees from South Sudan, who now lives in Kansas, is grappling with losing a family member to what they call a senseless crime.

Kansas City, Kansas, police said 19-year-old Adhel Deng was the victim of a homicide.

Now, her loved ones in Douglas County are making sure the teen is not soon forgotten.

“I’m not going to cry,” said Deng’s mother Helen Akot. “I’ve stopped crying because it’s not going to bring her back to me. I have to be strong to find her killer.”

Akot is fighting to remain strong. But, a week after her daughter was found dead inside her vehicle in the 6100 block of Haskell Ave. in KCK, she can’t help but grieve.

“She was a hero to me,” added Akot. “I stand here for you, Adhel. I wish you could hear me.”

The 19-year-old was a decorated scholar, soccer player and went to college after recently graduating high school. Her next step was joining the Army. That’s something Maresia Pencil-Smith, who’s in the military herself, was helping her with.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said family friend Pencil-Smith. “So, I sat there and I read it and I was like, ‘No, this can’t be real.’ I reached out to her mom to confirm. Yeah, it’s real and she’s gone. It really broke my heart. I just couldn’t stop crying because I watched her grow from such a tender age.”

Detectives with the KCKPD’s Major Case Unit are currently investigating. No arrests have been made yet.

“I was not there when the monster took her,” said Akot. “They took her life away. I was not there for her, to hold her when she took her last breath.”

While the authorities continue working to find leads, Deng’s loved ones are doing their best to make sure her legacy lives on.

“Adhel was very fun,” Pencil-Smith recalled. “When you’re around her, she would always want to make you laugh. She had one of the biggest laughs you’d ever see. This hits me really hard. I’ll forever miss her.”

A GoFundMe account has been established for Deng’s funeral expenses. You can click here to donate.

Deng’s funeral has been set for Feb. 11, which would have been her 20th birthday.