Tree dedicated at Ridgecrest Elementary in memory of Upatoi murder victim

Tree dedicated at Ridgecrest Elementary in memory of Upatoi murder victim

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - Nearly four months after the Upatoi triple murder, one of the most shocking and heartbreaking crimes to ever hit the Chattahoochee Valley, Ridgecrest Elementary made sure the memory of the youngest victim will live on.

Gianna Lindsey was in the fifth grade at Ridgecrest and had a profound impact on the school.

Her classmates gathered in the courtyard on Tuesday to plant a red rose tree in a garden dedicated to Gianna.  

"It symbolizes love and that is something you felt every time you were in the midst of GiGi," said Ridgecrest Principal, Veatrice Brown.

It was a very emotional day for her classmates and family that gathered.

At times her classmates struggled to hold their emotions together but Gianna's mother Shamika Averett encouraged the students to stay strong.

"I was encouraging them to be like GiGi, she was so loving and such a happy, wonderful spirited little girl and i was encouraging them to be good," Averett said. 

The most emotional part of the ceremony was after the tree was already planted in the ground.

Principal Thomas presented Averett with a yearbook. When she opened the year book she was overcome with tears, seeing Gianna's picture on the dedication page.

"I knew that I would be very touched by this but i was not expecting the yearbook dedication so that really got me at the end," Averett said. "And the children planting the flower was just awesome and I really appreciate that."

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