AVON, Ind. — Under blue skies Tuesday, a 10-year-old skipped rocks at the edge of Eagle Creek. You would never know he carries a burden that would leave some adults breaking under its weight.
Tuesday marked three years since the child last saw his mother, 30-year-old Najah Ferrell.
"He (told me) 'I just want to know what happened to my mom, I just want to know what happened,'" said his grandmother, Paula Gholson.
It's a question Gholson, Najah's mother and both of Najah's young sons are still asking, three years after she disappeared on March 15, 2019.
"This is a time I would never want any family to experience right now, but I'm going to try and do it with grace, dignity, pride and love. No parent wants to bury their child or see anything happen to them," said Gholson, as she gathered with the rest of Najah's family and friends near Eagle Creek, a place that holds special memories of Najah for them.
It's where they came to remember a daughter, sister, mother and friend.
"We will never forget what she meant to us, and it's very important that her children know and continue to keep that," Gholson said.
Najah's two sons and fiancé were the last people to see her alive. Police say Najah was headed to work for an early morning shift, but never made it there.
A week later, investigators found her car on the west side and some of her belongings scattered along Interstate 65.
A month later, men fishing in a retention pond near Crown Point, 100 miles north of Indianapolis, found a severed foot. A distinct tattoo and tests revealed it belonged to Najah.
"It's people that are really sick. I feel like they took her life because they were rejected. They couldn't deal with rejection or just sheer jealousy because she was a person that loved life," Gholson said.
Avon police continue to call the case a top priority and say they continue to work with multiple federal agencies on it. Still, there hasn't been a break in the investigation.
Three years later, this isn't where Najah's family thought they would ever be, releasing balloons in her memory, still waiting for answers about who is responsible for her disappearance and death, still waiting for justice that hasn't come.
"It's hard not to have closure in your life," said Gholson.
Hard for Najah's mother, even harder for the two sons she left behind.
"I am fighting for them to get answers because they deserve that," said Gholson.
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