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Mom of 7-year-old killed says family came to US for better life

Beatriz Villanueva and translator speak with reporters Thursday.
Beatriz Villanueva and translator speak with reporters Thursday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a 7-year-old killed in the crossfire of a Westside shooting earlier this month spoke out Thursday about her daughter, the challenges her family faces and what comes next for their family.

Heidy Rivas Villanueva was in the family's car with her father and a younger girl in a shopping plaza on 103rd Street when a bullet fired during a robbery struck her in the head. She died that night at a hospital.

With a translator by her side, Beatriz Villanueva, talked about losing Heidy. She said that even after gun violence took her 7-year-old daughter’s life, she still has faith and wants to thank the community and offer forgiveness for the people responsible.

“She cannot say that everyone in the United States is bad," the translator said. "She came looking for a better life for her daughters because of the criminality in Honduras and that she trusts God and she knows that this was meant to be.”

That unwavering faith is what Villanueva said is getting her through the most difficult time of her life. She lack of money and immigration restrictions prevent her from traveling to their home country of Honduras for her daughter’s burial.

The arrests of five people accused in connection to the shooting has given Villanueva some comfort and what she called justice for Heidy. She hopes the community will see what happened to her daughter and put an end to gun violence.

Villanueva has forgiven the men who police say killed her daughter and she has a message for other parents.

“In her heart, she cannot have hatred toward the people that did that to her daughter, but she will tell the moms to teach their children to know God so they will grow up in the right path," the translator said.

GoFundMe account to raise $30,000 for Heidy's funeral and transportation to Honduras has collected $19,000 and is still accepting donations.

On Thursday, the Fuccillo Automotive Group gave $5,000 to help the family reach its goal.