When Nikki McNabb talks about her son, Giovanni Diaz, she talks about how many lives he touched. But, even she didn’t realize how many until Thursday night.
Diaz is the 15-year-old in Lake Wales who was beaten to death with a baseball bat on Monday not far from the home he shared with his mother, stepfather and brothers.
Dillen Murray, 16, a boy he thought was his friend, is now charged with killing him.
Thursday, the family planned a vigil for Gio.
Dozens were expected to make the walk from the Circle K store on the corner of U.S. 27 and 1st Avenue North, south of Lake Wales, to the woods where Gio was murdered.
Dozens didn’t show up.
Sheriff’s deputies directed traffic and estimated 200-250 people made the walk to the woods.
Gio’s father, Jose Diaz-Medrano, was also overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up.
“Everybody knows him. They know he’s got a loving heart,” Diaz-Medrano said, choking back the tears. “My son touched a lot of lives. A lot of lives. He helped everyone.”
Once in the woods, family members proceed in first and friends followed. Some told stories about Gio, others offered prayer and song. Many held candles.
McNabb told the crowd, “You guys, this is amazing. I knew my son was amazing, but I did not know… he touched so many lives out here and so many people.”
After the vigil, McNabb said knowing her son touched so many lives gives her strength and purpose.
“And I’m going to continue fighting for what Gio wanted and what Gio was doing,” said McNabb.
“I’m going to continue in his footsteps. It starts at home. It really does. But I’m going to find a way and try to bring this community even closer and try to help these kids.”