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Batavia vigil held for newborn found dead in mother’s home

BATAVIA – Ministers and child advocates gathered Wednesday night to encourage residents to remember the baby girl whose body was found in a city home last week and to pray for the infant’s family.

“She is a child without a name and a child without a face, but a precious little life that has been taken away from us,” the Rev. Michelle Norton said. “We are mourning but also celebrating the life of this precious child.”

Norton and her husband, the Rev. Jason Norton, are co-pastors of Eagle Fountain Fellowship Church in Batavia. They assisted Regina Roberts in setting up the candlelight vigil at Austin Park, an event that attracted about 150 residents – many of them women and young girls.

The service was conducted in memory of the baby, who was born to 28-year-old Christina M. Colantonio of 208 Liberty St. Police said the baby was born at home and died shortly after birth. Police estimated that the newborn’s body remained in the home for about three months.

A Batavia City Court appearance for Colantonio has been adjourned until Sept. 24, officials said Thursday.

Colantonio, who has two other children, initially was jailed and charged with second-degree murder in the death of the child. She was released from jail Tuesday, and charges are still pending, because a medical examiner could not determine whether the child ever was alive or was stillborn.“The baby’s life is not forgotten,” Jason Norton said. “She has been received back into heaven in the arms of God … and if you want to know her, then receive Jesus as your Savior.”

He said the vigil was as much about making “a bold statement that darkness and evil will not prevail in this city” as it was to lament the baby’s passing.

Chandra Edwards said the service “was something that Batavia needed to do.”

“Just to come together, to let people know they’re not alone,” said Edwards, who has five daughters ranging in age from 14 to 25.

Tammy Arneth, executive director of All Babies Cherished, a not-for-profit Christian ministry, said the observance showed that people can “turn something negative into a positive.”

She then spoke about her organization that, free of charge, helped hundreds of men and women in pregnancy situations last year.

The Rev. Timothy Young of Living Waters Apostolic Ministries said “we’re here today to encourage each other and to love as Christ loves us. Christine needs lots of prayer and the family needs lots of prayer.”

Roberts’ daughter Stephanie Armstrong, 21, concluded the vigil by singing “In the Arms of an Angel.” At the close of the song, residents walked – holding lighted candles – across the park to Eagle Fountain Fellowship Church, which is located in the City Centre.

Dozens of stuffed toy animals donated by those who attended the ceremony will be given to the Batavia Police Department, which gives them to children on police calls. Children also signed two large sympathy cards, with “Rest in Peace, Baby Girl” the primary reflection.

A “GoFundMe” account has been set up to pay for the infant’s burial costs, with any extra funds earmarked for All Babies Cherished, Roberts said.