Family, friends gather at site where body discovered
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Friends and family members of VanDora Latasha Dailey gathered Saturday, April 4, outside a single-wide mobile home to memorialize the 24-year-old, special-needs woman whose body was recently discovered inside the dwelling.
The grim discovery was made March 26 by Atmore police officers who responded to a burglary call at the Jones Street residence, where on Saturday a small photo of Miss Dailey (who was incorrectly identified in initial reports) was placed on the porch and several teddy bears and other stuffed animals were piled against a tree in the yard.
Nearly two dozen men, women and children — including the victim’s brothers, Robert and Van Dailey — attended the brief memorial service, led by the Rev. Michael Arnold, pastor of Brewton’s Peace & Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church.
The preacher spoke briefly about personal loss and forgiveness before Elvin Gulley Sr., a deacon at Full of Life Ministries in Atmore, addressed the small congregation with similar sentiments.
“Let God continue to touch this family in a mighty special way, because we don’t know what their minds are going through,” Gulley said. “The only way you’re going to be able to make it through this is, you’re going to have to talk to God and ask God to help you through this situation.”
Gulley’s words also included reference to another of VanDora’s siblings, a sister who was her caretaker and who is believed by her brothers to have caused — either directly or indirectly — her death, which apparently occurred at least two months ago.
Family members asked that the name of the sister — who the family thinks has since reportedly gone into hiding — not be published, since city police have not yet formally named her a suspect in the young woman’s death. Gulley heeded that request, though he did make reference to the older sister by nickname.
“Even Josie …,” he began before momentarily gazing into space. “We don’t even know where she went, why or when, or what made this happen. But we ask God to catch her.”
He told the assemblage, most of them holding remembrance candles aglow, that the only way to deal with the tragedy was to turn to God for help, guidance and the strength to absolve the accused sister of blame.
“If you don’t, it’s going to affect you on your job,” he said. “The only somebody who can help us with this, is God. In the process, ask God to give you the love to tell your sister, ‘I forgive you.’ If you don’t, you’re going to tote that around, and that’s some heavy luggage you don’t want to tote.”
When Gulley finished his homily, Robert Dailey — who traveled from Florida with his wife, Nikisha, to attend the service — provided a countdown, and each member of the crowd released a balloon into the late afternoon sky.
The group, led by Arnold, then recited the Lord’s Prayer together before blowing out their candles to signify the end of the service.
Police Chief Chuck Brooks said this week that forensics specialists at the state crime lab have not yet confirmed the identity of the remains found inside the mobile home, which has no electricity, water or sewer service.
“Nothing has been confirmed yet,” Brooks said. “Our detectives continue to investigate.”