PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of mourners turned out at a Paterson, New Jersey church Friday evening, in commemoration of a 12-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet while riding a scooter in Paterson, New Jersey.
An open-casket funeral was held at the Community Baptist Church of Love for Genesis Rincon.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported Friday night, the church was filled with dozens of bright balloons, as the mourners shared their pain.
Genesis’ father, Alexis Rincon, choked up during the tribute to his daughter.
“A true angel has received her wings and flew up to heaven,” he said. “She will always be in our hearts.”
Rincon’s young friends were the first to enter the church.
“It was a tragedy because, like, I knew her. I spoke to her,” said friend Noah Abdul-Hakeem. “We were that close.”
Inside, mourners erupted in a jubilant song to celebrate Genesis’ life.
There was also praise for Rincon for inadvertently saving the lives of the five children who were also in harm’s way that night.
“I’m glad she went to God, because now she doesn’t have to suffer anymore in Paterson,” said Genesis’ sister, also named Alexis Rincon.
A total of three suspects have now been charged in Genesis’ death. Earlier Friday, Jeffrey Ellerbee, 21, and Marshae Anthony, 19, were both charged Friday in the death of Genesis Rincon, according to the Paterson police and Passaic County prosecutors.
Ellerbee was charged with first-degree murder, and both suspects faced charges of unlawful possession of a weapon.
The charges came as a result of unspecified information learned during the investigation into the case. Prosecutors asked that bail be set at $2 million for Ellerbee and $75,000 for Anthony.
Meanwhile Friday, the suspected gunman in the case, Jhymiere Moore, 19, faced a judge for the first time on murder and weapons charges.
His bail was kept at $3 million, but his attorney, Harley Breite, said he will file a motion to get it reduced.
Moore was arrested in connection with the shooting after turning himself in to authorities on Tuesday, but his attorney said Moore was nowhere near the scene on the night of the shooting.
“My client had absolutely no involvement in that shooting. My client was not anywhere related to that shooting. My client has no knowledge of who actually committed this horrific incident,” Breite told reporters after the hearing. “Somewhere, there is someone who shot that girl, but that person is not my client.”
Breite said his client turned himself in because he heard through others that he was a target of the investigation.
“Rather than make it appear that he had some culpability or was in some way responsible for this, he took it upon himself to say, ‘I am not guilty, I am not responsible for that tragedy, and I want to be an active member in this criminal justice system. I’m not going to become a second victim in this tragedy,”’ Breite said.
He said no gun was ever found on Moore’s person.
“My understanding is that there’s no gun. There was no gun found on my client. One thing’s for sure – the killer of that young girl was not in court today,” Breite said.
Breite said he believes his client is being used as a “scapegoat.”
If convicted, Moore faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Relatives and friends packed the courtroom for Moore’s hearing Friday, many of them wearing “Justice for Genesis” T-shirts.
The 12-year-old’s mother broke down crying and left the courtroom holding her head in her hands when Moore walked in, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“We’re asking that everyone please respect this family in their time of sorrow,” said family spokesperson Rev. Della Fischer, adding their prayers also go out to the suspect’s family. “We realize that he too has a family and we are praying for them as well. My heart is out for both families.”
Outside court, Genesis’ father, Alexis Rincon, said his daughter was the light of everyone’s life.
“My daughter was a great, great child. My daughter was a great child,” she said.
CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang asked Alexis Rincon about Miller’s not guilty plea. His answer was, “I have a lot of faith.”
Meanwhile, Genesis’ murder outraged the community.
“I just don’t understand it. I do not understand it. I don’t get it,” said Paterson resident Beverly Harden. “Why is there so many killings in the city of Paterson?”
Genesis was shot in the head around 8:40 p.m. Saturday while riding her scooter on Rosa Parks Boulevard with two friends, police said.
The other children were not injured.
Genesis was declared brain-dead. Her family took her off life support Monday night and the girl’s organs were donated. A 14-year-old boy received her heart, a 4-month-old girl her liver and another 4-month-old her kidneys.
Police have said they believe the suspect was aiming at someone else at the time of the shooting and that Genesis was not the intended target.
Earlier this week, acting Police Chief William Fraher said overall crime in Paterson is down, but that there has been an increase in gun violence.
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