By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Memories were shared and stories told of a little girl who loved animals and playing soccer, singing and dancing, and had listed among her Christmas gift wishes this year a pair of handcuffs.
“She wanted to be a police officer,” Police Chief Mary Sclabassi said Thursday of 7-year-old Emma Watson Nowling’s plans for when she grew up.
That dream ended when Emma died from gunshot injuries soon after leaving soccer practice Dec. 3. A week after the tragedy that left Emma’s mother, Sharon Watson, 37, hospitalized, a candlelight vigil honored the girl’s family with prayers and community support.
“We will get through this,” said Pam Watson, Emma’s grandmother.
Watson said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming and has helped the family more than she could describe.
“It comforts us,” she said. “We know we will see Emma again and that keeps our faith strong.”
Hundreds gathered in the parking lot of Taylor Sportsplex, 1333 Telegraph Road, where one week earlier Timothy Nelson Obershaw, 57, shot and killed Emma and wounded her mother before turning the gun on himself.
Emma died later that night at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. Obershaw was pronounced dead at the scene. Watson remained hospitalized in serious but stable condition last week as of press time.
The ceremony was led by members of Gilead Baptist Church, who offered songs, prayers and the spirit of congregation. Family members were presented tribute keepsakes including a soccer jersey signed by Emma’s teammates and – granting a final holiday wish – a pair of Taylor Police Department handcuffs and certificate naming her an honorary member of the department.
“The death of a child is about as bad as it gets,” Sclabassi said.
The investigation concluded that Obershaw was an acquaintance of the girl and her mother – and drove them to soccer practice that night – but the motive may never be known and remain a tragic mystery.
Witnesses and family members had described Obsershaw, who lived with the mother and daughter in their Belleville home before moving recently to Taylor, as having become mentally unstable in the past year.
Prior to the candlelight vigil, the family had held a private memorial service for Emma. A fundraiser to benefit the family is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 16, at JP McGuire’s Bar & Grill, 21138 Goddard.
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)