Family remembers infectious laugh of 5-year-old who died in pond after JSO says she was kidnapped

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Loved ones said Vanity Cabrera loved dancing, had an infectious laugh and a smile that could light up a room.

The child’s mom, 32-year-old Pamela Cabrera, is now charged with vehicular homicide and eluding police in connection with Vanity’s death.

This family is heartbroken about the tragedy. They are now holding memories of her close, like when she went to a pumpkin patch all dressed up and did what she loved most — danced.

“She was full of life, she was full of joy. She loved to dance. She was extraordinary,” family member Jeanette Davis said.

Police say Vanity was kidnapped Thursday by her mother. JSO said Cabrera was armed with a knife and led police on a 30-mile chase. It ended when she drove her SUV into a retention pond off Interstate 95.

Cabrera was pulled out alive, but little Vanity did not survive.

“I think that since this has happened…you just feel that the world is just different because she’s not in it,” Davis said.

Court records reveal Vanity’s mother has had a history with the law and suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The documents say that Cabrera lost custody of Vanity in 2020 and has been living with her sister since then.

News4JAX talked to the child’s aunt who said she raised Vanity like she was her own.

“I was just wowed by the way they loved Vanity, and the way that Vanity loved them,” Davis said.

This family said Cabrera also loved Vanity and they do not want people to rush to judgment.

“Or think she was evil or any of that. They want to make it clear that this was a person struggling and wasn’t successful you know getting the help that they need,” David said.

Their loved ones are now focusing on keeping Vanity’s memory alive and hoping this tragedy can help raise awareness about mental health issues.

Since Vanity’s death community members have rallied behind helping raise more than $10,000 to help them lay Vanity to rest.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.