Three days before Blake Evann Litton was to turn 4, grieving family, friends and a community in mourning gathered to say good-bye to the precocious little boy with a contagious smile.
Blake loved horses, T-ball and Sunday School, a characteristic that both Senior Minister John Wagner and Associate Minister Adam Shetzler were particularly proud of.
“I know that Blake believed. I know without a doubt Blake believed,” Wagner said during the Thursday morning memorial service at First Christian Church in Versailles.
“Today, Blake has been made complete, he has been made whole, he has been made strong,” Wagner continued. “And, he is able to stand in the presence of God with that glorious smile upon his face and I’m sure it brings a twinkle in the eye of our Heavenly Father as he sees him there today.”
A week has passed since Blake was beaten to death at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend.
Thomas Joseph Presley, who is charged with second-degree murder, told investigators with the Missouri State Highway Patrol that he “struck the child more times than he could remember” because the child had soiled his pants. Presley left Blake on the side of Highway 135 in the early hours last Thursday, and then called 911 claiming Blake was the victim of a hit-and-run.
“Blake’s life was not a life in which he was able to grow up and be a strong, young man,” Wagner said. “Or, see age pass him by. He was still young, he was still vulnerable, and innocent.”
Blake’s family, including his biological father, Robbin Martin Litton, little sister, Faith, who just turned 3, and grandparents, sat in the first two rows of the church quietly morning the loss of the little boy and trying to find comfort and solace with each other.
Faith was placed with her grandparents after investigators found the little girl also showed signs of physical abuse. Besides visible bruising on her head, torso, legs, buttocks and arms, Faith suffered a broken wrist. A nurse examiner reported the girl’s injuries were “anywhere from one to two weeks” old.
During the service, Faith, who was dressed in a blue dress, was a sign of hope for the family as she played quietly and hugged family members.
“I miss my brother,” Faith said after the service, taking a break from playing with white and blue balloons and three Teddy bears. The bears were left at the church by strangers during the past week in honor of Blake.
In the months before Blake’s death, Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty said several calls were made to the child abuse hotline. The department is investigating the calls to determine if there was a failure in the system.
Page 2 of 2 - Blake’s grandmother said it was she who made the calls after becoming concerned with the treatment of the children.
“And nothing was done. Nothing,” LaVera Miller, of Stover, said.
Blake’s mother, Jamie Ann Litton, was also charged with second-degree murder and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child for her role in attempting to cover up Blake’s death. Litton and Presley both have bonds set at $100,000 and are being held at the Morgan County Detention Center.
“In the midst of his suffering, Blake was able to bring laughter and happiness to all those around him,” Wagner said. “It was his ability to forgive and to forget the things that were done around him, and just the unpleasantness of the routine of life, helps define for us God’s love and God’s forgiveness.”
Wagner asked the congregation to seek comfort in the fact that though Blake’s life was short here on Earth, he’ll spend an eternity in Heaven.