March 21, 2019 10:41 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- As life slowly returns to normal along U.S. Highway 218 near Blooming Prairie, the only sign of anything out-of-the-ordinary is a growing pile of stuffed animals, flowers and solar lights marking the spot where two-year-old Noelani Robinson's body was found nearly a week ago.
The makeshift memorial continued to grow Thursday, as well-wishers visited the site to pay their respects and reflect on a life cut short. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Robinson died from homicide due to blunt force trauma in the head, but so far no charges have been filed in her death. Her father, Dariaz Higgins, was arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting her mother, Sierra Robinson, and wounding another woman before taking Noelani, prompting an AMBER Alert. A Milwaukee woman was charged in connection with the case Thursday.
One well-wisher to visit the memorial Thursday afternoon was Heather Olson, who lives just over three miles from the scene.
"When we went by that night, we were just kind of confused on what was going on. I've never seen that much police activity in Blooming Prairie," she recalled.
Olson and her family dropped off a number of items at the memorial, including a wooden cross with the girl's name on it. Though they never met her, they felt a connection to her and a need to preserve her memory.
"If something were to happen to my child, I would want her to never be forgotten, and that's the way I explained it to my daughter was that we're going to put something there so that no one ever forgets this little girl because she was very special," Sabrina Dostilio said.
Rod Drumgold of Austin drove by the memorial Monday on his way to the Twin Cities. On his return trip, he could barely spot the small site, prompting him to put out a call for donations on Facebook. His post was shared nearly 500 times.
"I went and bought a bouquet and set it there and I went home and it still didn't sit right with me, so I made a post to challenge the community to show her love," he said.
Since Monday, countless items have shown up at the roadside memorial, and more are being sent to a local church to make their way to Noelani's family.
It's an outpouring of love and support from a community that is no stranger to loss. Nearly a year ago to the day, rural Blooming Prairie resident David Riess was found dead at his home south of town; his wife Lois stands accused of his murder. In September, a beloved Blooming Prairie teacher and her daughter were killed in a car crash on their way to school.
Despite tragedy after tragedy, community members remain strong for each other, but Dostilio said they haven't grown used to the heartbreak.
"Death and loss of people is scary, no matter how often it happens," she said.
First Lutheran Church of Blooming Prairie is collecting sympathy cards, notes and drawings to send to Noelani's family; those items can be dropped off at the city administrator's office or the church through March 27.
Created: March 21, 2019 10:41 PM
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