Justice for Darisabel

Justice for Darisabel

Update: Since the original date of publishing this post: Closing arguments have begun today in the trial of Harve Johnson. The trial is expected to wrap up in the next week. City Church has been meeting for 10 weeks, sharing the transforming hope of the Gospel in York City. I intend to write more when the trial is completed. Pray for the peace and prosperity of York City

Original post written April 7, 2009
(Spanish Version can be found here)


Today marks the one year anniversary of Darisabel’s death. One year of painful memories. One year of daily reliving the monstrous beating Darisabel took at the hands of a troubled young man. One full year that her grandparents, under-20 uncles, and close friends were refused the opportunity to lavish love and gifts on her for Christmas and her third birthday. One terrible year where any bright moment that might burst forth was overshadowed by the constant memories and preliminary hearings. My gut says that this coming year won’t be much better. Darisabel’s mother and her boyfriend will stand trial for their respective roles in Darisabel’s death. The trial stands to be a graphic reminder of a day we would all like to forget. Just last week, I sat at a pre-trial hearing and in a short time quietly went through the whole range of emotions: rage, sadness, disbelief, and just feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach.

Some of our newer readers may not know City Church’s connection, so I’ll briefly explain. Darisabel was my little neighbor girl, a playmate of my own two year old, Amelia. Darisabel is the little girl in the pictures with pigtails and earrings. They loved spending time together. Darisabel was often in our backyard playing with the kids or roaming through the house when we babysat her. She was a beautiful little girl with the most dazzling blue eyes, simply enchanting. I can still picture her near the open window that faces our house calling, “Amelia, Amelia!”

I can still remember the day we heard the news. There was a three month window in the winter where we had not seen Darisabel. We knew her mother was dating a new guy that neither we nor Darisabel’s family had met. Elizabeth, Darisabel and the new boyfriend were now living on Philadelphia Street and kept their distance from us all.

On April 8, 2008, I picked up my copy of the York Daily Record and read the headline story about a two-year old girl who was beaten to death with an XBOX controller. The story had only one picture of the mother with a name I didn’t recognize, Neida Baez. Her face was haunting. I was moved to tears without even knowing the connection. I stared at Neida’s picture over and over and even told my wife the story. I swore that the woman looked like Darisabel’s mother, Elizabeth, but the connection seemed impossible. I knew Elizabeth. I never believed for a moment that she would have been capable of allowing something like this. My wife, Gail, took the kids to school that morning and returned to horrifying news from Darisabel’s grandmother. The front door to our house flew open with Gail weeping and wailing uncontrollably. “Aaron,” she screamed, “it was Darisabel.”

Never in my life have I experienced those kind of feelings. Gail and I both went about a week without much sleep. We wept bitterly at all hours of the day. Composure was something that I didn’t have for a while. In my line of work, one deals with a lot of death, suffering, and the lowest depths of human possibility, but this was deeper than anything for which I had been prepared. I couldn’t hold it together talking with my Mom or my buddies who were pastors. To top it off, the family asked me to perform the funeral service, which I gladly did in partnership with Pastor Euphemia, a Hispanic woman who leads a congregation in York. I spoke from Matthew 10:26-31:

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

I reminded the packed funeral home that Darisabel was worth more than many sparrows to the Father. I spoke of the fact that God is Judge and is able to right the wrongs. The Scriptures reminded me that Divine justice for sin had been freely offered in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a Holy Substitute, for sinners. I’m not sure how much comfort my words brought, but I have watched as God has brought His comfort to this grieving and distraught family.

One year later, I’m asking what we have learned from all of this. I have an entirely new perspective on teen pregnancy, poverty, illegal drugs, justice, and the protection of society’s weakest members. But, how have we all been changed by this? The internet is filled with buzz about the upcoming trials. Facebook groups are filled with members crying out for human and Divine justice. But, what has really changed?

At the end of the funeral service, I asked everyone there to join hands and vow to make little Darisabel’s life count for something. I’m still not entirely sure how to do this. At the end of the month, Darisabel’s grandmother and I will be attending the formation of Pennsylvania’s first Prevent Child Abuse America chapter. Raising awareness about child abuse is one thing we can help to do.

But surely there must be more. Human justice will have its day when Judge Brillhart convenes the trial. In fact, human justice must have its day because Darisabel’s blood cries out for it. It is God’s prerogative, though, to mete out Divine justice.

I find it sweetly ironic that this year, little Darisabel’s death is observed on Passion week. This week, 2000 years ago, marks the suffering of another innocent One. On a crooked old wooden cross, God the Father allowed His own little One, the Darling of Heaven, to be crucified for human sin and injustice. Divine justice has been offered for all of our sins, even the most heinous ones. Thinking about how much punishment should be inflicted on the man who tortured Darisabel is a reminder of how much God hates human sin. He hates it so much that He had to offer the Perfect One, Jesus, for our sins. Yet, Divine justice only finds satisfaction for those who embrace the gift of Jesus. There is no other satisfaction for sin than what Jesus offered for us. Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

This, in fact, is how Darisabel’s story connects to City Church. Our hope is to plant a church in York City that offers the comfort, hope, and transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus. We are firmly convinced that God used this event to call us to minister and serve among the residents of York City. And so, we intend to make Darisabel’s life count by taking the transforming power of the Gospel to people who otherwise might end up with the same fate as Harve Johnson and Neida Baez. Just maybe, some family that is touched by the Gospel will stop using violence, drugs, and sex to solve their problems, and turn their energy toward loving each other and their own little ones; little ones like Darisabel.

Amelia pranced in as I was wrapping this post up. I can’t help but kiss and hug her a little more in light of Darisabel. My heart is broken for a little girl who should have had lots of kisses and hugs from her own father, but instead had her life violently cut short by a short tempered man with a toy in his hand. I’m confident Darisabel is in a better place now. I bet last Sunday that Jesus helped throw her one awesome birthday party in heaven. I’m praying that Jesus can help our little church in York City make something good come out of Darisabel’s life.

We will never forget you Darisabel!

11 Replies to “Justice for Darisabel”

  1. Hello,

    My name is Jodie Pedano and I have been consumed by this tragedy since I heard about it last year. I have never cried so much for someone I never even got to meet. I walked around for months crying and completely consumed by what happened to this beautiful little angel. I would search the internet over and over for updates in the case, hoping to see her killers brought to justice. I noticed the coverage was getting sparse and that really bothered me. ''She just can't be forgotten'' I thought. I decided to start a Facebook group called ''Justice For Baby Darisabel'' a couple months ago. I am pleased to say the group now has well over 400 members and is growing each day. Recently I asked members of the group to light a candle for Darisabel April 5th,6th,7th. There are candles glowing around the world for Darisabel tonight. I think it's amazing that a church will be built in York in honor of little Darisabel. And like you, I also hug my 18 month old daughter Samantha and my 6 month old Johnny a little tighter and kiss them a few more times when I tuck them in safely in bed. They are such pure, innocent little beings and my mind can't even imagine harm coming to them or especially allowing harm to happen to them. Neida has to live with her inaction for the rest of her life. She must wish she could turn back the clock and do SOMETHING to stop the tortuous beating of her baby. A simple 911 call would have prevented Darisabel's death.. She listened to her baby scream for an hour and did nothing. I wonder how many times Darisabel cried out for her mother, only to realize mommy wasn't going to help her. What really tortures my mind is reading about how Neida got into the room to find her daughter cuddled up in a corner with a lump on her forehead and bleeding and because that evil monster Harve told her he'd ''make it worse'' if she didn't leave, she actually walked back out of the room and let the torture continue!!! What hopeless misery and despair Darisabel must have felt as she watched the only person that could save her walk out the room and leave her to be brutalized some more by that evil man. This brings me to tears whenever I think of it. I want Neida to answer the question ''How could you have left her to die???' '
    I hope and pray that Darisabel's little soul is somehow at peace, that in Heaven she does not remember the torturous death she suffered at the hands of an evil man and that her mother sat by and let her die. I pray all she knows she the loving light of God and pure happiness. I also pray that the animals responsible for her death pay the ultimate price and that they face the wrath of God for commiting the most heinous crime against an innocent little child I've ever heard of. Again, God bless you for doing what your doing. If I ever get to Pennsylvania I will visit your church and would love to meet you. It feels so good to know that Darisabel will never be forgotten and like you said, if even one child is saved by someone being touched by your church, it's all worth it. I feel the same way about my group. If even one mother in a domestic abuse situation see's Darisabels story, maybe she will think ''I have to get out of this situation..that could be my child!!'' then it's all worth it. Thank you for taking the time to read my very long post. God bless you and please give my condolences to Darisabel's family. Let them know there are complete strangers who love Darisabel and think of her every single day.

  2. I too was consumed by this, having a daughter around the same age. My heart was filled with sadness and my eyes with tears as I read what happen to Darisabel. I never really understood how someone could harm a helpless little child. I didn't know the grandmother at that time but am privileged to now know such a wonderful women. My heart still aches. Love and prayers to the family. She is now in a peaceful place.

    Thanks for posting the pictures, very touching.

  3. Aaron, I just came upon this posting today. I pray for and think about the family often and I pray for the mother as well. I think the family is so fortunate to have you and Gail as neighbors……..funny how life puts you in certain places isn't it? I do hug my babies tighter when reminded of such tradgedy. God bless you for ALL of your work 🙂
    Beautiful photos….

  4. Thanks for your honest expressions Aaron. My heart physically ached after reading the testimony in today's paper. And i didn't even know her… but these stories are messages directly to our hearts. It reminds me of the commonality of what it means to be human, to be alive, to feel. Thank you.

  5. This beautiful angel has finally had justice done. Sweet Darisabel can rest in peace knowing her tormentor never walk free again. My heart goes out to the family of Darisabel, particularly her grandmother. No grandma should ever have her precious grandchild taken from her like this. I pray God heals her hurt and she can get some peace knowing that the animal who took her grandbabies life will pay for what he did, here and in the afterlife. God bless you and your family. And RIP Darisabel, you will live in our hearts forever.

  6. This beautiful angel has finally had justice done. Sweet Darisabel can rest in peace knowing her tormentor never walk free again. My heart goes out to the family of Darisabel, particularly her grandmother. No grandma should ever have her precious grandchild taken from her like this. I pray God heals her hurt and she can get some peace knowing that the animal who took her grandbabies life will pay for what he did, here and in the afterlife. God bless you and your family. And RIP Darisabel, you will live in our hearts forever.

  7. I did not know Darisabel. Ever since I read that article in the paper last year, I have not been able to get this out of my mind. The way this little angel suffered at the hands of someone else while her mother stood there and did NOTHING! I know God has a plan for everyone and everything happens for a reason, but it is hard for me to believe that mother doesnt deserve the death penalty as well. We, as mothers, are supposed to protect our children. If we do not do this, who will? This beautiful little girl deserved better! I have been holding this anger inside of me for a long time. Where is justice for little Darisabel? I cry writing this and I didnt even know her. I do know that she does not have to suffer anymore and is up in heaven with God. Rest in peace little angel…a little soul gone too soon..

  8. What a sweet soul. I did not know Darisabel, but just by looking at the pictures I can tell that she was a very loving, sweet child. As a human being, her story sickens me. As a mother, her story makes me weep and my heart literally hurt. At least we can all have comfort knowing that she will never be hurt again and is again her sweet self. Her story has made me even more thankful for my children, and has made my love for them even more. When I check on them tonight, before going to bed, they will be getting extra smooches in Darisabel's honor. Thank you for taking the time to put this site together.

  9. Aaron Anderson, what a wonderful human being u truly are!! I have no doubt yr efforts are appreciated by many. It is a cowardly act for one to end a childs life, when it was only just beginning. The most disheartening fact is that the perpertrators are still breathing, while little innocent darisabel is not………. But you are making a difference, and showing that her death was not in vain, and we all know this……and so does darisabel. Thanku for your efforts, my sincere condolences to her grandmother. I praise u and the other people involved for trying to make a difference, u are making darisabels honour a very proud one.

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