BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Before noon, staff at Mini Blessings Daycare started setting up chairs, a cupcake platter, and organizing pink balloons. The cheery decor marked a somber milestone - the anniversary of the kidnapping of a former student, Kamille 'Cupcake’ McKinney.
“Dealing with that and dealing with childcare, you never think you’ll have to deal with something like this because you’re here to protect them," said co-owner Kerry Bozeman. "So today has been really rough.”
Staff gathered in front of the building with the 3-year-old’s family for a prayer and balloon release in her honor. The owners say it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since Kamille’s kidnapping. They keep pictures of her posted around the center as sweet reminders.
Kamille’s mom attended the release saying coming back to the daycare meant coming back to one of Kamille’s favorite places, but the trip was painful because she had to do it without her daughter and because of the reason she had to go back.
“I’m angry. She was supposed to be starting school. I’m not supposed to be here remembering her life. She’s supposed to be here still living her life,” said Kamille’s mom April Thomas.
Thomas says she is appreciative of community efforts to honor her daughter, but like any mother, she would much rather have her little girl.
The emotions of the day also weighed heavy on Birmingham’s Police Chief Patrick Smith. He says his officers felt an immediate emotional connection to the case as soon as they started investigating and still feel the weight of the day a year later.
Chief Smith says Kamille brought the community together in a desperate search to find her.
He feels his department has conducted a thorough investigation to bring Kamille and her familly justice, but wishes they could have brought her home safely.
“Wishing that we were able to stop this one incident just in one moment of time. She’s had a tremendous impact on this entire department. She’s had a tremendous impact on the entire city," said Chief Patrick Smith. “I think everyone still feels it.”
The daycare says it plans to continue to support the family and will hold a service every year to honor Kamille.