Reward money in Ferrante case donated to Memorial's special-needs program
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
11/28/12 at 7:16 AM
Kayla Ferrante planned to spend her life helping children with special needs, but a bullet cut her life - and that goal - short this spring.
With a $10,000 donation to her alma mater Memorial High School on Tuesday, however, her legacy will continue to help those who inspired her, officials said.
The money was raised to encourage people to come forward with information as the case grew colder, but it was police work that brought in her alleged killer. So the money meant to inspire a good deed for justice will help mentally disabled students for years to come.
"She loved these kids," said Ferrante's mother, Roxanne Thornton. "She had such a passion and such a heart for these kids at Memorial. Her life was cut short, but this will help continue her work."
Ferrante was shot shortly before midnight on May 26 in the 1500 block of 122nd East Avenue while in the passenger seat of a silver Cadillac with her boyfriend, Neikko Perez. Ferrante had graduated from Memorial High School and had attended a graduation party earlier that day.
A bullet from a high-powered rifle struck and killed her, but police had no witnesses and few leads immediately after the shooting.
Shortly after her death, the Oklahoma Crime Commission, which facilitates the Crime Stoppers program, set up an additional reward fund for information related to Ferrante's death. When the fund was established, organizers and family said the funds would be donated to Memorial High School's special-needs program if the reward was not paid out.
In late July, Tulsa police announced they had arrested Edwin Jermaine Daniels, 24, in Ferrante's death. According to arrest records and court documents, Daniels believed he was shooting at a vehicle that belonged to rival gang members.
At a preliminary hearing in September, Demario Adams, who acknowledged gang ties, testified that he saw Daniels dig a hole and bury a rifle in a yard in the 1000 block of North Norfolk Avenue. Police later found a scoped SKS rifle buried there. They also found six spent shell casings at the scene, police said.
Thornton said that the loss of her daughter has been a difficult process, but steps like arresting her alleged killer and even Tuesday's check presentation at Memorial High School are steps in that long process.
"This helps me heal my heart," Thornton said. "It doesn't make my pain any less.
"It's been six months. It's been forever and it feels like yesterday."
But Thornton said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming. She said it shows the kindness people have.
"Whenever I saw the amount, I was surprised," Thornton said. "Because we could do this, we have been able to further her mission in life. This will go a long way."
Janet Parker, special education teacher at Memorial High, said the school is eager to put the money to work for the students in her classes.
The $10,000, and an additional $5,000 that was donated directly to the program in Ferrante's memory, will go to promote and encourage mentor and tutoring programs between students at Memorial, and to build a horticulture garden where students with mental and physical disabilities can work to build vocational and life skills.
"We wanted something that would be a big thing," Parker said. "I wanted to get the kids out of the classroom to something that could progress to a career."
Work has already started on securing the materials and determining a location for the garden, which will sell its products to sustain the project while helping develop life skills for those working in the garden.
In Ferrante's time working with Parker's students, she said she saw the passion in her to carry this work through her life.
Now that she can't carry it out herself, it will still continue for years to come, Parker said.
"I know she's up there cheering right now," Parker said. "For something wonderful to come from something evil, that's exactly what she'd want."
Original Print Headline: Reward money in Ferrante case donated
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Roxanne Thornton (left) and Paul Ferrante, the parents of slain teenager Kayla Ferrante, and special education teacher Janet Parker listen to a presentation at Memorial High School in Tulsa on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
John Rogers, chairman of the Crime Commission, announces a donation to Memorial High School's special education program in Tulsa on Tuesday. The money was collected as a reward in the murder case of Kayla Ferrante, a Memorial grad who aspired to work with special-needs individuals. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World