New Yorkers flock to East Village to mourn slain girl


By Chad Smith

Hundreds of people stood in line on Monday for a chance to pay their respects at the wake of Nixzmary Brown, who endured months of abuse at the hands of her stepfather and mother, and whose death has sparked anger and frustration, as well as an outpouring of sympathy, among city residents.

Nixzmary, dressed in a white gown, her face veiled by lace, lay in her small casket at the R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home on 22 First Ave. Her grandmother, Maria Gonzalez, of Puerto Rico, and other family members, including an aunt who lives on the Lower East Side, wept across from her casket, as some friends, but mostly strangers whispered a prayer or simply came to say goodbye.

“I feel for this child. I’ve been keeping up with her story,” said Louis Negron, 35, who works as a doorman in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn.

Negron was one of the many people who had never met 7-year-old Nixzmary but who braved the day’s numbing-cold weather to see her. Although Negron quietly lamented the disturbing behavior of Nixzmary’s parents, others were more vociferous.

“Let’s stop having stories about dead kids. Let’s have these agencies do something about it,” shouted Traza Devosa, 33, who lives in Manhattan and works for Head Start, a government-sponsored program intended to help young children of lower-income families. Devosa repeatedly asked the question, “Where was the A.C.S.?” referring to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. Others standing in line, which had snaked around E. Second St. as the afternoon wore on, nodded their heads in agreement.

A.C.S. has come under scrutiny from the mayor, who has ordered an investigation into why the agency did not remove the little girl from her Brooklyn home.

Last May, officials at Nixzmary’s grade school called A.C.S. after she had been absent several days in a row. The agency opened an investigation but could find no evidence of abuse, reported the Daily News. A few months later in December, Nixzmary came to school with a bruise on her forehead, prompting school officials to contact A.C.S. again. A.C.S. employees reportedly interviewed the little girl and visited her home, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to speak with her parents.

Police say Jose Rodriguez, Nixzmary’s stepfather, flew into a rage last Wednesday night and beat Nixzmary in the bathtub — a blow he delivered to the little girl’s head during this rage proved fatal. There were also signs of torture and sexual abuse, according to police.

“That father’s gonna pay,” said Jaime Medina, a postal worker who lives in Brooklyn, in reference to Rodriguez, as he attended the funeral on Monday. “I’ve got a granddaughter, and if anyone tried to ever get near her, they’d get hurt,” he said.

But if the mood was sometimes tumultuous and raucous outside, inside the Ortiz Funeral Home it was nothing but quiet and respectful.

A framed photograph of Nixzmary, smiling and holding an award she had won, hearkened back to a brighter day in the short life of a girl whose final years were shadowed by despair. Two of the funeral home’s security guards gently asked that members of the public make their goodbyes brief so that the line could keep moving.

For now, Nixzmary’s five siblings are with A.C.S. as an investigation into the agency remains underway. A funeral Mass for Nixzmary Brown was to be held at 9 a.m. on Wed. Jan. 18 at St. Mary’s Church at 440 Grand St. on the Lower East Side, and burial will follow at Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, N.J.