Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Emotional service for Yetanya Francis

Published:Saturday | September 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Lionel Francis (left) and Latoya Riley break down during a memorial service for their daughter, Yetanya Francis, a student of Kingston Technical High School, who was murdered near her home in Arnett Gardens last month. The memorial service for her life was held yesterday at the Pentecostal Tabernacle Church in central Kingston by the school.

Family members, including the mother and father of slain 14-year-old Yetanya Francis, teachers and students from the Kingston Technical High School, and members of the community came out yesterday to offer thanks for a life they all agreed was cut way too short.

The congregation of mainly students at the Pentecostal Tabernacle Church on Wildman Street, downtown Kingston, broke down several times during the service as tributes flowed. Today, Yetanya would have celebrated her 15th birthday.

On the night of August 23, Yetanya 'Princess' Francis left home in Arnett Gardens to go to a nearby shop to purchase food. When she did not return home, a search was launched by residents of the community, but she was not found. Her nude, partly burnt body was found in a section of the community by residents at about 11:30 a.m. the following day.

"Gone too soon is indeed a cliche, but it's a totally apt one in this case," said Yetanya's form teacher, Terisa Benjamin, at yesterday's service.

She described the teen as a gem and a star; someone who was kind and attentive to her education, eager to learn, and caring.

"To say she will be missed is simply not the right words. Hers was a life cut way too short, and which has impacted the school, her family and the community in unimaginable ways," she said.

Her mother, Latoya Riley, moved by the many words of comfort, had a word of advice for the perpetrators.

"Turn yourself into the police. It is not too late for you. My daughter was taken at your hands, but God has the answers," she said.




There were moving tributes also from the Education, Youth and Information Minister Ruel Reid, who told The Gleaner that the country has a challenge in keeping children safe.

"The country has got very heartless. Crime and violence almost has become endemic in our country, and while we were a society in peace and love, we cared for each other and everyone loved his neighbour as himself, now, that appears to be done away with," said Reid.

"It's ironic that our education system seems equally to have created some of the problems with unattached youth, and people who find alternatives in organised crime and those nefarious activities, and so one of the things we are trying to do now is to make sure we create a seamless pathway from early childhood right up to grade 13."

This is so, Reid said, in order to further educate the nation's children, which will also help turn their fertile minds away from a life of crime.

Moving tributes were also accepted from South St Andrew Member of Parliament Mark Golding, in whose constituency Yetanya lived.