Nyla Jones picked out a green Easter basket filled with Skittles, M&M’s, Mounds and other treats and couldn’t wait to break into it on Sunday morning.
But that never happened.
Instead, the basket with a blue bow sat as part of a growing memorial for the 4-year-old, who was shot and killed Saturday in what her family is calling a “terrible accident.”
Police say Nyla’s uncle, Ronald Jones Jr., 24, opened fire on a car just before 10:20 a.m. at Northwest 13th Court and 65th Street. Inside were Nyla, two other small children, and Nyla’s aunt.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
On Sunday, Sharonda Mitchell, said her 24-year-old brother — Nyla’s uncle — feels gnawing regret over what happened.
“It’s eating him alive,” Mitchell said, adding that he never intended to fire into the car. “If he could give his life for hers, he would.”
As Ronald Jones Jr. sits in Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on one count of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted second-degree murder with a deadly weapon, his older sister says she wants to set the record straight.
She said she spoke to her brother Sunday morning to get his side of the story. He told her that he got into a fight over money with another sister — not Nyla’s mother — and in the “heat of the moment,” snatched the gun from his waistband to put it elsewhere, and it went off, Mitchell said.
“He didn’t even know the kids were in there,” she said. “He would have never done that on purpose. He loves his nieces and nephews.”
Jones, who was being held without bond, only had one prior conviction in Miami-Dade County for petit theft in 2012.
The two other children, Nyla’s cousins, were grazed by bullets or glass, Miami police tweeted on Saturday, and were “OK.” One of them, who is the same age as Nyla, was running around near her home Sunday with her arm bandaged up and her hospital bracelet still around her wrist. Nyla was taken by her mother to Northshore Hospital, where she died.
Meanwhile, Jones raced from the scene, wrecked his car on Northwest 62nd Street, then turned himself in Saturday afternoon, Miami police said Saturday.
Mitchell said Nyla was always a “very happy baby who gave us all attention.” She said Nyla’s mother is “devastated” but doesn’t blame her brother.
As a family, they are trying to come together to honor the little girl who loved to watch the Disney character Doc McStuffins fix broken toys and enjoyed playing outside with her cousins.
By Sunday afternoon, the Easter basket — left near the spot where Nyla’s life was taken — was surrounded by Teddy bears, unicorns, candles and heart-shaped balloons.
Mitchell said instead of watching Nyla and the other kids hunt for eggs Sunday and eat barbecue, they are left trying to plan a funeral.
“I just can’t believe she’s no longer with us,” she said.