Grief overcomes Harlem at vigil for murdered 10-year-old Ayden Wolfe

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Apostle Staci J. Ramos was overwhelmed with emotion after speaking at the vigil.
Photo by Dean Moses

The death of Ayden Wolfe has left a hole in the heart of Harlem.

The 10-year-old boy was found dead inside his apartment within the St. Nicholas Houses on West 131st Street on March 5, 2020. He was brutally beaten, an apparent victim of child abuse allegedly committed by his mother’s boyfriend, Ryan Cato, who was subsequently charged with the boy’s murder.

With so much sorrow and anger built up in both those who knew him and those who have only read about the tragedy, dozens of individuals gathered at the St. Nicholas Houses on Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil to express their emotions. They included local clergy and community members, along with NYPD officers.

Mourners gathered with candles and balloons. Photo by Dean Moses

Grasping flickering candles and signs reading “Protect our youth” and “Stop violence in our community,” the vigil participants formed a circle below the 14-story apartment building. Flanked by an array of television cameras and microphones, religious leaders from an assortment of faiths evoked their spiritual beliefs and prayed for the murdered boy.

“We are here because a 10-year-old child was beaten to death, and although we are ministers, we are very, very angry. We are very, very upset. This cannot ever happen again. We will not allow it to happen again, and we will not forget Ayden,” Reverend Oswald Denis, co-host of the vigil, told amNewYork Metro. 

Amidst the deluge of grief and tears shed, Ayden’s father, Darnell Wolfe, joined the vigil. Struggling to keep his emotions in check, Wolfe, who originally hails from the Bronx, thanked those in attendance for their support.

Candles burned as mourners cried in anger. Photo by Dean Moses

“I want to thank everyone for showing all the love and support that everyone is giving. Although much wasn’t revealed about the situation, we will continue to ask questions and find out more. Again, I want to thank everyone. I feel the love. I am torn up over this,” Wolfe said.

Cato was arrested on March 7 and charged with murder and endangering the welfare of a child. Police sources said has an arrest record, and there is an open child abuse case against him with the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey B. Maddrey attended the ceremony to show his and the NYPD’s support of the community and the family.

“This is a difficult subject to talk about. I’m a father of three daughters and just recently had a granddaughter. Children are the most precious gifts from God, they truly are. There are families out here fighting for their precious gifts and who fight to have those precious gifts,” Maddrey said, gripping Denis’ hand tightly as he spoke.

Father of Ayden Wolfe, Darnell Wolfe thanked the community for their support. Photo by Dean Moses

Maddrey pleaded with the public not to let another child abuse tragedy happen in New York again.

“I just want everybody in this whole city to know that if you are ever experiencing any problems or any trouble, and you need someone you could turn to or talk to, you can call the Community Affairs,” he said. “You can call this Department of the NYPD, we will help you, talk to you, and support you, and direct you in any way we can. For these babies out here it is our duty, if we have to lay down our lives to protect them.”

Mourners at the vigil stressed that more people should have called when they first heard the sounds of the abuse, stating “If you see or hear something, say something.”

The vigil concluded with the release of balloons into the dark evening sky.

Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey B. Maddrey gripped Rev. Oswald Denis’ hand as he spoke. Photo by Dean Moses
Balloons were released as a symbol of hope. Photo by Dean Moses