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Victim's three daughters get a day of magic

Published May 20, 2013 5:58 am

Community • Since their mother was killed in February, girls have "gained a new family."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kearns » The little girls seated at Tinkerbell's green-slippered feet hung on the pixie's every word.

They stared up at her in awe: This blond fairy flown straight out of a Disney movie with wings and magic dust and a giggle that rang like wind chimes in the breeze.

She asked the birthday girl a question.

"Have you ever lost something?" she said. "Has anyone here lost something?"

Hands shot into the air. But not Aliveah Montoya's.

As the children clamored to tell the fairy princess what they'd lost — fairies, she said, are good at recovering lost items — the adults at the party held their breath, watching the 4-year-old's face.

What the girl has lost, nothing can ever bring back.

Aliveah Montoya is the youngest daughter of Danielle Lucero, one of three people shot to death inside a Midvale home in February.

When their mother died, Aliveah and her sisters, Ava Montoya, 6, and Analise Lucero, 9, saw their world collapse in an instant. But now, it's bigger than ever.

They've become a part of a bigger family, of cousins and brothers and uncles and aunts and friends and strangers, who all want to help these three girls. Aliveah didn't raise her hand Saturday because she wasn't thinking about what she's lost. She was surrounded by her new family, by her friends and now by five Disney princesses drawn to her birthday party by the family's tragic story.

Aliveah was in a magical place. "They're never left with strangers, they're always with people who love them," aunt Lisa Silva said. "It's like they gained a new family, and so did we."

For Danielle Lucero, 2013 was supposed to be a fresh start.

After years of battling addiction and seeing her children taken in by relatives, Lucero cleaned up, landed a job interview and began to keep her promises.

She lingered after play dates and dinners, sang Justin Bieber songs around the table with her girls.

"She was doing so good," Lisa Silva said. "I could tell she was really trying. She wanted a new life for her kids." The night before her job interview with the Discover credit card company, Lucero made several phone calls to her friends and family.

She was in Midvale. She needed a ride home, 20 minutes back to Kearns.

It was late. No one came.

The next morning, police said, Lucero was one of three people found shot to death inside a run-down brick house at 8286 S. Adams St. (450 West) in Midvale. Omar Paul Jarman, 35, and Shontay Nichole Young, 34, were also killed.

A massive manhunt led to the arrest of David Fresques, who faces three counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly wounding another victim.

To this day, no one knows why Danielle Lucero was in that house or why she was killed.

This is how Lisa Silva, the sister of Analise's father, explained it to the girls: "Sometimes bad people do bad things."

The day before the birthday party, Lisa Silva sat at her kitchen table wrapping cake pops and putting bows on party favors.

The 41-year-old mother of two thought she was done with birthdays like this. Her youngest, a 17-year-old high school junior, has a job and an internship. Her 21-year-old daughter lives on her own.

But in October, she and her husband, Manuel Silva, took in Aliveah and Analise. Ava was taken in by her grandmother.

The Silvas thought it would be temporary. So did the kids.

For months, the 9-year-old refused to go outside and play in the neighborhood. She dragged her feet in school, grumbled about doing chores around the house.

"Why bother?" she'd ask. "We're going to leave here anyway."But slowly, and despite her mother's death, Analise has more friends than the Silvas can track. She made the soccer team, goes to church and earned Top Cat honors in her fourth-grade class.

Aliveah is harder to read. She's bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked and loves having a backyard to play in and a new big brother to play with. But she still asks about her mom:

"Do you think she knows it's my birthday?" Aliveah asked recently. "Are there phones in heaven?"

Princess Belle was working a birthday party at Classic Fun Center last month when a small girl on roller skates ambled up to her. She wrapped her arms tight around Belle's golden gown and didn't let go.

Lisa Silva explained about Aliveah's mother. She said it's been a hard few months.

"All I could think was, 'Wow, what can we do for her?' " said April Nielsen, who plays Belle and co-founded birthday entertainment company Magical Celebrations.

The answer came on Saturday as Belle led four other princesses into Aliveah's birthday party at no cost to the family. It was the biggest princess party the new business had ever put on.

"It happens all the time," said Lisa Silva, standing next to a bounce-house loaned to her for the weekend. "There's something about these girls. Everyone wants to do something to help."

The donations they've received are countless: clothes, toys, furniture. In the months since Lucero's death, distant relatives have become close family. And they were all there Saturday, watching the girls pose for pictures in princess gowns and tiaras that bore their mother's face.

Inside the house sat a sign, its inscription truer now than ever before: "We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all."

mlang@sltrib.com