PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The family of Meshay Melendez and her daughter Layla Stewart buried them together Wednesday, nearly one month after they were found dead in a Washougal ditch on March 22.
The invite-only funeral took place at 3 p.m. at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver, where Melendez, 27, and Stewart, 7, were buried together in one casket.
“Layla and Meshay’s beautiful smiles will forever remain in our hearts,” said Ricardo Melendez, Meshay’s brother. “They are together always in heaven as they were together as one here on earth.”
Ricardo said he had looked forward to seeing his niece grow up.
“All that is just taken away from me now,” he said.
One by one, those closest to the girls shared their fondest memories and said their goodbyes.
“It is really hard right now because in a moment like this, Meshay would be my rock,” said Makayla Jeter, a friend of Meshay’s.
Meshay’s brother shared a similar sentiment.
“My sister lifted me up my whole life, and now it’s my time to lift them,” he said.
A white casket with pink chiffon lining carried the mother and daughter together. The funeral was paid for with community donations and organized by the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation.
Each aspect of the dual funeral was carefully curated for the pair. The phrase “Too Beautiful for Earth” was printed on programs and t-shirts.
“They will always be the life of the party, and they’ll always live in our hearts forever,” said Alaysia Atkins, a family friend.
“Thank you to everyone that has helped with the burden of burying the only daughter and granddaughter of our client,” Bart said.
The pair had been found with what a medical examiner said were gunshot wounds to the head.
Kirkland Warren, the man charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Melendez and Stewart, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment hearing on Monday.
Authorities say Warren was seen driving away from a Vancouver apartment on March 12 with the mother and daughter inside a Dodge Charger. Police arrested Warren on March 19.
According to prosecutors, a cell phone later seized from Warren revealed a trip from the location of the bodies to Warren’s address on March 13, and blood, bullet casings, and clothing believed to be Stewart’s were found inside his car.
“We know he is guilty, there is no shadow of a doubt in any of the family’s mind,” Bart said.
Warren’s next court date is scheduled for May 23.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.