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Community garden honoring Somer Thompson opens

Vacant lot used to remember Thompson

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ORANGE PARK, Fla. – The mother of a 7-year-old Clay County girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered just blocks from her home has revealed a community garden where the house of Somer Thompson's killer once stood.

The garden officially opened Saturday.

Diena Thompson, Somer's mother helped dedicate the garden along with about 100 other people in mid-April.

Somer was killed in October 2009.

The Somer Thompson Foundation partnered with local grassroots group Bring Food Forests To Northeast Florida to build the garden.

"Obviously I didn't need a constant reminder of what was happening or what had happened at this house I don't think the neighbors need that either," Thompson said.

Somer Thompson disappears while walking home from Grove Park Elementary School on Oct. 19, 2009.
Somer Thompson disappears while walking home from Grove Park Elementary School on Oct. 19, 2009.

The man who molested and murdered Somer, Jarred Harrell, was squatting at the home that was at 1152 Gano Ave.

He is now serving a life sentence.  The home had gone into foreclosure and the bank has turned ownership over to the Somer Thompson Foundation.

"They were never going to be able to sell this house as long as I had a breath in my body and I'm sure probably the neighbors too," said Thompson.

About two hours after the fire was set, there was nothing left of the house but brick walls and burning embers.
About two hours after the fire was set, there was nothing left of the house but brick walls and burning embers.

On Feb. 10, the home was burned to the ground as part of a training exercise for Clay County firefighters.

"I did everything I could to avoid driving by this house. I would take the longest direction even if the traffic was bad on Kingsley. I didn't care. I didn't need to be constantly reminded of this house," said Thompson.

That is when Thompson decided something positive needed to come out of that property.

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"To be able to burn down the house legally and put something so different and unique and amazing on this piece of property is truly a godsend," said Thompson.

So now the lot where the home once stood is transforming into a community garden. Volunteers came to plant fruit, veggies and herbs.

"We are hoping that it will add some healing, as things start to grow in flower then will be beauty where there was such a tragedy," said Michelle McInnis, a volunteer.


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