As friends of a girl killed last week on Interstate 10 in New Orleans East gathered at a candlelight memorial Tuesday night wearing T-shirts from her April “Sweet 16” party, her mother pledged she will not rest until investigators uncover the truth about how her daughter died.
“I will not stop until I get answers. This will not become a cold case because I will not allow it,” Kenisha Martin-Nelson said.
Coroner Jeffrey Rouse said Tuesday that the teen, Kaylan Ward, died of multiple blunt traumatic injuries.
Police said last week they believed the girl may have been hit by a car on the eastbound side of Interstate 10 near Bullard Avenue on Thursday morning. Police found her body on a bridge over Bullard about 6:30 a.m., prompting an investigation that shut down the interstate for hours.
How and why Ward wound up on the roadway is a mystery.
She was last seen that Thursday about midnight, according to police. She was miles away from where her body was later found, walking on Earhart Boulevard near Magnolia Street in Central City. She was asking for a ride to North Miro Street, said Officer Juan Barnes, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman.
Ward’s death is being treated by police as unclassified, not a homicide, and Traffic Investigator Anthony Pontiff is leading the investigation.
Ward’s mother does not believe her daughter’s death was an accident. She said it would make no sense for the girl to have been walking on an interstate highway.
“Someone took my daughter, and they hurt her,” Martin-Nelson said. “Someone knows what happened.”
Scores of friends and family gathered on Dorchester Street in New Orleans East about 7 p.m. Tuesday to remember Ward’s short life. They carried candles and released purple balloons into the air to honor her life.
Ward was a rising junior at McDonogh 35 High School. She had two younger brothers, ages 6 and 9. Her mother described her as mischievous, lively and likable.
“Everywhere she went, people fell in love with her,” Martin-Nelson said. She said she felt “empty” without her daughter, who had helped her mother pick out their house just months ago.
The teen was previously reported missing on Dec. 9. Police said then that Ward and her mother got into a fight inside a car and the girl ran off. She eventually returned to her mother, police spokesman Barnes said Tuesday.
“No matter what, she did not deserve to die like this,” Martin-Nelson said. “I had a rebellious child, but I love her.”
Investigator Pontiff can be reached at (504) 658-6205.