By Mary O’KEEFE
A memorial service will be held at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church on Monday, June 21 for Monte Vista Elementary kindergartner Kayla Woods who died after a vehicle being pursued by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Thursday night, June 10, struck her.
The incident occurred in front of her home in Lake View Terrace. Counselors have been at the school this past week talking to students and staff.
The school sent notices home on Monday afternoon explaining what had happened.
“We thought we should let the parents tell their children in their own way,” said Monte Vista principal Dr. Susan Hoge.
As soon as word began to spread of the loss the school began receiving calls from the community asking what it could do to help the family.
“The PTA is taking up a collection for the family,” Hoge said.
Hoge added the students have been dealing with the loss through writing and drawings that help express their emotions.
“[On Tuesday] we had our Kindergarten Sing [program] and we collected cards for the family,” Hoge said. “And [Kayla’s] teacher put together a little slide show. Some parents came alone; others brought their children.”
On Tuesday the three suspects involved in the police chase were arraigned at San Fernando Superior Court.
The pursuit began about 6:30 p.m. on June 10 after police witnessed a drug deal at Foothill and Van Nuys boulevards, said Officer April Harding, an LAPD spokeswoman.
The three suspects later identified as Aaron Rojas, 32, the alleged driver and passengers Juaquin Hiriarte,24, and Manuel Araujo Ydiarte, 49, fled from police.
At some point during the chase guns were allegedly tossed from the fleeing vehicle, Harding said.
The driver lost control of the car in the 11900 block of Fenton Avenue in Lake View Terrace where six-year-old Kayla was playing in a yard.
The child was struck and pinned between the car and a stone wall in front of a home. She was transported to the hospital and later died of her injuries, Harding said.
Rojas and Hiriarte were charged with one count each of murder, evading an officer causing death, felon with a concealed firearm in a vehicle and carrying a loaded firearm with prior conviction. They are being held on $1.05 million bail, each. Ydiarte was charged with possession for sale of a controlled substance, heroin. He is being held on $30,000 bail. Their next scheduled court date is Jun 28 in San Fernando.
Hoge hopes the public memorial will help Monte Vista families as well as the community deal with this sudden and tragic loss.
“I have been trying to support [the students] but am careful not to stop the grieving process. They cry, they need to feel sad right now,” she said.
The memorial is at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church at 2902 Montrose Avenue at 7 p.m. Kayla was part of the church’s daycare program after school.
Anyone who would like to send cards or donate to the Woods family fund can do so by dropping by or sending their donation to Monte Vista Elementary School, 2620 Orange Avenue, La Crescenta, 91214.