Hundreds wear blue, honor baby who was brutally raped and killed
Just over a week after, authorities say, 2-year-old Ariana Smyth was sexually assaulted and killed by her mother's boyfriend, hundreds of family, friends and strangers watched blue and white balloons ascend into the air in memory of the slain child on her birthday.
Teri Susan, a close friend of Ariana's grandmother, said at least 300 people attended the "celebration" in Barnegat, while about 1,500 people participated from other locations.
The event, "Wear Blue for Ariana," was an effort to celebrate the child's life. Participants were asked to either wear blue or wear something from the Disney movie "Frozen," which was Ariana's favorite, according to her cousin, Destiny Hughes, who also helped organize the event.
Hughes and Susan said the response to the "Wear Blue for Ariana" celebration was overwhelming, with people not only attending, but also bringing food. Local businesses also donated food for the event in honor of the baby.
Those in attendance, Hughes said, not only lit candles and played music, but also released the blue and white balloons — the colors that represent the movie. Friends and family members have also set up an Angels for Ariana Facebook page to continue memorializing the baby and providing updates on the case.
On July 7, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo charged Michael Disporto, 22, of Manahawkin with first-degree murder in connection with Ariana's death. The baby's mother, Amber Bobo, 26, was charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, Colalillo said in a statement.
Authorities say after Disporto sexually assaulted Ariana, Bobo discovered that the baby was badly injured, but repeatedly succumbed to pressure from Disporto not to seek medical care or otherwise make the child's injuries known.
Ariana was eventually transported to Cooper University Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a subdural hemorrhage and cerebral edema. She underwent emergency brain surgery, according to a probable cause statement in the couple's arrests. The baby also had bilateral bruising and swelling to her labia, a complete fracture of her right humerus, bilateral pulmonary contusions and urine and blood in her abdomen.
Despite the life-saving efforts, Ariana succumbed to her injuries.
AGoFundMe page was been set up to help Ariana's father, Robert Smyth, pay for funeral expenses. On the page — which has raised $12,500 so far — Ariana's "grandpop" thanks donors and said he will never get over his granddaughter's death
He also expressed his feelings toward Bobo and Disporto.
"I am so sickened by all of this. I have such hatred for them both!!! They took away my life. I loved her more than anything in the world," Smyth's father wrote. "I will never ever get over this. My son Robert Smyth will never be the same person ever again."
According to Barnegat-Manahawkin Patch, the case is being referred to a grand jury, and Disporto has retained private counsel while Bobo is using a public defender.
Dan Alexander contributed to this report.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.