In a light drizzle Friday night, about 40 friends and family of 2-month-old Sophia Ludwiczak, who was shaken to death last month, gathered for a candlelight vigil at the gazebo in Kennedy Park in Vandergrift.
The child's father, Matthew Milisits, 30, is accused of shaking his infant daughter so hard when she wouldn't stop crying that she suffered fatal brain damage.
The baby was declared brain dead and taken off life support four days after the Nov. 15 incident.
Milisits is facing homicide, aggravated and simple assault and other charges. His formal arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 23 in Westmoreland County Court.
“The baby needs to be remembered,” said Amber Phillips, a friend from Apollo who was decorating the gazebo with purple and blue balloons.
“It's a tragedy on how that baby was lost.”
Lori Kiehl of Washington Township, who is the great aunt of Sophia, said, “We just want to do this in memory of Sophia. This gives us a little bit of peace.”
During the vigil, the mood was light as friends and family alternately hugged and sometimes laughed together.
But there was no mistaking the contempt for Sophia's death.
The color of the balloons was significant, as purple is the color for shaken baby syndrome and blue signifies child abuse, said Jeannie Sowers of Apollo, a friend of the family.
Mourners released the balloons and also held lit candles to honor Sophia's memory.
“The support mechanism is important,” Sowers said. “These are always bad things, but this time of year, such a loss makes it even worse.”
Sophia's mother, Samantha Ludwiczak of North Apollo, is taking her child's memory into the holidays and celebrating her life.
“We have a Christmas tree ornament with Sophia's, face and we hung a stocking for her,” Ludwiczak said.
She asked her two other young children what Sophia would like, and they chimed in, “A binky and a rattle.”
Ludwiczak said that she wants to thank everyone for their continued love, support and prayers.
“This is a preventable thing that should have never had to happen,” she said.
“Keep your family close,” Ludwiczak said, “and never let your children forget how much you love them.”
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Long-awaited bridge expected to be completed in June
- FirstEnergy halfway into 72-day, $60 million upgrade of Springdale facility
- Volunteers devote day to furthering projects in A-K Valley
- Filming for Cinemax TV series to divert traffic in Allegheny Township
- Leechburg man held for trial in fatal wreck
- State’s homeless rate begins to decrease
- Hyde Park woman to stand trial in teen sex case
- Indiana Township couple face illegal prescription charges
- Driver of pickup truck dies following crash into New Kensington house
- Traffic to tighten with closure of Freeport Road lane for crossing Hulton Bridge
- Gas industry, rural character top Winfield candidates’ list