Hundreds gather to honor victims of Tempe Town Lake drowning in candlelight vigil

A tragic event brought together a community of family, friends and loved ones for a candlelight vigil on Sunday to honor and remember four victims of an intentional drowning in Tempe Town Lake on Oct. 18.

Danica Baxter, 25, and her children 1-year-old Zariyah, 2-year-old Nazyiah and 3-year-old Reighn, died during the early morning hours of Oct. 18 after Baxter's husband drove their SUV into Tempe Town Lake. 

Tempe Police are investigating the crash as a murder-suicide. At the time of the crash, police, along with family and friends, said Danica and Glenn were separated and did not live together, but got together that night to "talk about the children."

During the vigil, Danica's aunt Collette Pearson said it was wonderful that the community as a whole gathered not only to remember Danica and her children, but to raise awareness for domestic violence. 

"You don't realize (the effect) until it's your own family," she said during a speech. "Without you, we'd still be wondering what to do next."

When asked what one word best described Danica, Pearson took no time responding. 

"Strong." She said. "She was very strong."

Alona Del Rosario, who is part of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, said it is so important to recognize the different types of domestic violence and for victims to seek help in a safe manner as soon as possible.

"When a survivor (of domestic violence) chooses to leave (their situation), it can become even more dangerous because the (abuser) is loosing control," she said. "It's the ultimate punishment to hurt the victim, and in this case, her children."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 percent of women and 12 percent of men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. 

In 2015, 89 people in Arizona have died so far as a result of domestic violence, according to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. In October alone -- which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month -- 11 victims of domestic violence have died. 

Event organizer Charissa Lucille said that even though she never knew the Baxter family, she was driven by her own history with domestic violence to put together an event that would honor the victims and recognize the issue of domestic violence. 

"We wanted to show the community that we aren't going to stand for domestic violence," she said. "We're not going to stop. Something needs to be done."

If you or someone you know is or may be involved in a domestic violence situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or seek online resources here

Reach the reporter at or follow @SuerthJessica on Twitter.

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