The faces of Ashley Kaney and her 8-year-old daughter smiled out at a crowd of friends and family who gathered to remember them on Friday night, tears trickling down people's faces and reflecting in the candlelight that illuminated the picnic shelter at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center.
Kaney, who was 26, and her daughter, Riley Burdick, were found murdered in their home on Kershaw Road in Summerville on Tuesday. Berkeley County investigators have ruled their deaths an isolated case of domestic violence.
Kaney's boyfriend, 22-year-old Jacob Philip, was arrested in Virginia Beach, Va., and charged with two counts of murder. Police said he confessed to the killings after police picked him up on unrelated charges.
Kaney was raised in Aiken and moved to Summerville about a year ago, according to previous reports. Her mother, Katherine Kaney of Aiken, was in attendance Friday night along with Burdick's father Paul and other family members.
“Through the strength and the love and support we get from those around us and from the lord above, we will get through this terrible tragedy, and something beautiful, I know, will come from this,” Katherine Kaney said.
After reading a passage of scripture, Kaney implored those in attendance to take a stand against domestic violence so others can avoid the pain she and her family are experiencing.
“Let's pray there are no more victims like this,” she said. “Make your voice heard. Do something, and don't just stand back.”
Mia Barrett, 11, was one of Burdick's best friends and helped organize Friday's vigil. A poem she read about friendship was punctuated by sniffles and cries from the crowd.
“You always seem to remember all the things to do, that make friends last forever and share a bond for two,” she read. “I'm so glad God gave to me someone just like you, he knew that you would be one of the chosen few.”
Only five days earlier, Barrett was with Burdick and her father in Summerville for the weekend.
“We went to the duck pond, and we went go kart racing,” she recalled. They dropped Riley off at her mother's home Sunday night before returning to Aiken.
“I love you. I'll see you the next time you come down,” she recalled saying to Riley.
The two met at a McDonald's when Burdick was just 4 years old, Barrett recalled.
“We just started hanging out, and we were friends ever since,” she said. She and Burdick saw each other every other weekend, and said some of the best times were had in Summerville, including when they went to a water park for Burdick's birthday.
They were neighbors for a while, and even put a ladder for an above-ground pool over the fence so they could see each other.
“Her dad would pick her up over the gate, because she lived diagonal from us,” Barrett recalled. “We had a pool ladder that went over the fence so we wouldn't have to jump over the gate every time. She'd always rip her pants on the thing.”
Katherine Kaney rested her head on the shoulder of her son, Travis Ryan, as he spoke of healing and finding the positive among tragedy.
“I trust God,” he said. “There is something that is working for his glory out of this, because it would not be allowed to happen were it not so. In some way, somehow, somewhere, we're gonna find something positive and for his glory out of this.”
Finding the positive in any situation was something Kaney was good at, according to her friend Rachel Hanisee. The two worked together at Takosushi in downtown Aiken.
“Her attitude was contagious,” Hanisee said, gazing at the picture of Kaney and Burdick that sat surround by candles at the front of the shelter. “Vivacious. Intelligent. Funny. Beautiful. She was always the life of a party. She always had a smile on her face, she could always see the bright side in every situation.”
She remembers Kaney as a great mother and friend.
“She always put Riley first,” she said. “It was a privilege to know her and be friends with her, to love her and to be loved by her.”
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Cedar Creek Church. Donations to assist with funeral expenses can be made to Shellhouse-Rivers Funeral Home, 715 Pine Log Road in Aiken.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012.