WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Teary-eyed with hands folded and heads bowed, a community came together Monday to mourn the death of a 7-year-old girl killed in a hit-and-run in West New York.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, hundreds gathered to remember Sheyla Pichardo at St. Joseph of the Palisades after she was killed in the Feb. 29 accident. A mariachi band played outside as her casket was carried out of the church.

“Beautiful, beautiful family — mom and daughter,” said friend Glenda Butcher. “I never knew the father, but I’ve seen him … and you could tell the closeness that they had.”

Sheyla’s kindergarten classmate, Brenda Martinez, misses her friend.

“She always had that smile, and she always played with everyone,” she said.

Surveillance cameras captured a black Chevrolet Tahoe right before it slammed into Sheyla, who was holding her mother’s hand crossing the intersection of Van Buren Place and 61st Street around 8:20 a.m.

The driver, Fabian Rodriguez, 33, then got out of the sport-utility vehicle, looked at the mother standing over her little girl’s body, got back into the vehicle and drove off, police said. Two hours later, his wife, Johanna Rosas-Alvarez, reported the SUV missing, trying to cover up the crime, police said.

Rodriguez has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a fatality, knowingly leaving the scene of an accident that caused bodily harm and hindering apprehension. His wife has been charged with hindering apprehension.

Pichardo’s father spoke through a translator Sunday at the girl’s visitation.

“I’m heartbroken,” he said. “I’ve lost my daughter. This is not an easy situation.”

Mayor Felix Roque helped get visas and fly family from Mexico to the funeral for extra support.

“Everybody’s coming up to me asking how else they should be helping,” he said.

Meanwhile, the memorial on Van Buren and 61st continues to grow. Residents told Baker they will not forget what happened at the corner — a life gone too soon.


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