On a rainy Wednesday night in Jackson Township dozens of people, many who never met Ashley Zhao, gathered to remember the 5-year-old.

The pile of flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals has grown outside of the restaurant where she was found dead earlier this week. The community is overwhelmed by grief to lose such a young child.

“When we drive by, we just don’t even fathom that something like that would happen to a five-year-old child,” Victoria Watson said.

The crowd of people lit candles, prayed, and sang Amazing Grace.

Watson remembers Ashley always smiling when she came to the restaurant.

“We came here a couple of times and I remember her running around the eatery. And she would just draw pictures and take them over to people,” she said.

Jennifer Wells has the same memories.

“Every time we were here she would always be chatting away. We were always greeted by a smile from her,” Wells said.

As a mother, she was shocked by what happened and had a hard time explaining it to her 12-year-old daughter Maggie.

“Her memory will live on in each of our hearts. And with her story, we will work to maybe one day make peace in this world,” Maggie said.

Nichole Revoldt’s granddaughter went to school with Ashley’s 7-year-old sister, JoJo.

“I just would like everyone to also pray for JoJo because her life is going to be turned upside down,” she said.

Ashley’s sister is now in protective custody as her parents sit in jail, accused in connection with Ashley’s murder.

“I pray for Ashley, she’s in God’s hands and she’s in a better place,” Revoldt said.

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