Dannarriah Finley was just 4 years old when she was abducted from her home in Orange on July 4, 2002.
ORANGE, Texas — Members of the Orange community plan to take a dark piece of Southeast Texas history and find its purpose.
Members of Mt. Zion Baptist Church are working to ensure Dannarriah Finley Life Center will stand where their youth center once stood. Many residents of Orange said they will never forget what happened to him.
Dannarriah Finley was just 4 years old when she was abducted from her home in Orange on July 4, 2002. Four days later her body was found on Pleasure Island.
The girl had been raped and murdered a few weeks before her fifth birthday. More than 20 years later, no arrests have been made and the case remains unsolved.
Her tragic death brought the community together years ago when many gathered to search for her. Now the community is coming together again in hopes of commemorating a young life taken far too soon.
Related: Cold Case: Search continues years after brutal murder of 4-year-old Dannarriah Finley of Orange
Finley’s funeral was held at Mount Zion. Church members come together to build a family life center that bears his name.
They hope the Dannarriah Finley Life Center will provide children with a safe place to gather.
Mt. Zion is located at the corner of 5th Street and John Street. Ramona Muhammad said the puzzle pieces of her vision for the center came together soon after she joined and learned about the history of the church.
“In fact, I noticed in the bulletins that there was a center of life that you prayed for before we joined,” Muhammad said. “So it was the perfect opportunity.”
The plan is for the center of life to be where the old church youth building was. The youth building suddenly collapsed.
“It fell off its pillars because the gentleman who did the foundation work made a mistake and all the walls slipped,” Pastor CW Crawford said. “And when that happened, the building collapsed.”
The youth house is a historic building so would require a certificate of opportunity to demolish it further.
Pastor Crawford and Muhammad attended the historic district meeting to see how the city’s money is being spent. They both want something beautiful to come out of the rubble.
Muhammad also read the Historic Preservation Commission’s budget plans and discovered that there was $13 million available and perhaps $5 million to distribute. She took action, seized the moment, and the vision of the Dannarriah Finley Life Center became a reality.
“The idea has always been in my head to just be able to help people and offer something to young people,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad’s mission is to ensure that less fortunate children have access to a safe place to help them grow mentally, physically and spiritually. It was also important that the center be built close to Dannarriah Finley’s home.
Finley grew up across from 4th Street Church. The house she was abducted from was demolished.
“So we really needed some spiritual guidance for the young people in this area,” Pastor Crawford said. “And since it happened a block away, it would let young people know that life doesn’t end there and that everything has a purpose.”
Anyone wishing to donate to help the church raise funds can send money through Zelle to [email protected] or donate at any Bank of America branch.
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