Gathering to say goodbye to Heidy Rivas Villanueva

Part of Monday's service open to public, part only for family, close friends

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Friends and family gathered Monday to say formal goodbyes to Heidy Rivas Villanueva, the 7-year-old killed when struck by a stray bullet from a shootout on Aug. 11.

Heidy's body lay in a white-and-pink casket surrounded by pink flowers during Catholic and evangelical services at the Aaron and Burney Bivens Funeral Home on Kingsley Avenue.

Father William Villa told mourners that those who loved Heidy must now support her family members as they carry the burden of her loss. 

"We are sending a little angel to the house of God," he said. "For her, we don’t have to worry about her anymore because she's a little angel and the angels are in heaven. We have to worry about the family."

Heidy was sitting in a parked car with her father and sister when gunfire erupted at a Westside strip mall. Jacksonville police said they received hundreds of tips following her death, which helped lead them to the arrest several people involved in the shootout. Two of those arrested are charged with murder.

Heidy's father didn't speak during the service but told News4Jax last week that his daughter died in his arms.

"It all unfolded right in front of me. They started shooting. We were just in the car in the middle of all the shooting."

He said they had just bought Heidy's school supplies and she was excited about starting first grade.

"She had already planned out her future, her life," the grieving father said last week. "She had already chosen her career path and all her dreams are gone."

More than $17,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe site to pay for the funeral and for returning her remains to her birth home in Honduras for burial.

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