(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Sparkles gleamed off purple stones that filled a vase of sunflowers to honor and remember 17-year-old Riley Whitelaw and the legacy she leaves behind. A legacy of kindness and love for others that will forever prevail among the horrific tragedy of June 11, 2022. But above all else, the girl they call “Smiley Riley” and the light she brought into this world continues to shine, and forever will.
“We are here to talk about the light and the brightness that is Riley Whitelaw,” said 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen during a press conference held Wednesday after the sentencing of 29-year-old Joshua Johnson, who was found guilty of First-Degree Murder in Whitelaw’s death.
A sea of purple filled the courtroom on Wednesday as loved ones, family, and friends shared impact statements and created a memorial piece while sharing what they loved most about who they described as an angel on earth.
The memorial piece was a flower vase, first filled with 42 black stones to represent the pain that Whitelaw faced at the time of her death, purple stones were then added in after each statement. The last of which came from Riley’s mother, Courtenay Whitelaw.
“I will live for her and carry her for every moment of every day,” Whitelaw said. “I pray that kindness and love will erase the evilness in this case… thank you all for your time, Riley’s mom.”
Sunflowers would later coat the top of the vase, a reminder of Riley’s brightness.
“Riley was a very vibrant soul, they called her Smiley Riley and they call her sunshine, and the sunflowers remind them of her and her light,” said Kate Singh, Director of Communications for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
A light that will forever protect some of the most vulnerable.
“While we know that this verdict cannot bring Riley back, her legacy of being a kind and loving person will live on through her family and her friends and the legislation brought about in the wake of the tragedy,” said CSPD Chief Adrian Vasquez. “Riley’s Law will further protect the privacy of juvenile victims, witnesses, and their families.”
A somber day uplifted by the love and memories of those closest to her.
“Riley’s light continues to burn bright and her loved ones, friends, and Riley’s mom have dedicated themselves to guarding that flame,” said Allen. “Riley is not forgotten and today, she received the justice that Colorado law can provide.”