KENTWOOD, Mich-- A somber ceremony was held Thursday in honor of Mujey Dumbuya.
During the evening, loved ones gathered at Mujey's grave to celebrate what would have been her 17th birthday. Relatives held candles, said prayers and released balloons in her honor.
"It's so hard, so difficult, if you could tell me Mujey would be here for her 17th birthday, I would say no," said Mujey's mother, Fazmata Corneh, as she referenced her daughter's grave. "Losing a child is not easy."
Mujey was found dead in Kalamazoo County back in January, months before she was set to testify against the man accused of sexually assaulting her. That man, Quinn James has been convicted of her sexual assault and will be sentenced next month.
"We can get justice, but justice is not going to bring Mujey back. Justice is not going to bring our daughter back, justice is not going to bring our niece back. But at least it gives us that closure, it gives us that peace, that somebody else out there might not be harmed again, or somebody else out there will not be hurt again," said Mujey's aunt, Jainya Sannoh.
The family says they were refugees who came to the U.S. for a better life, but say in the end, they've dealt with the same situation they've run away from.
"We ran away from rape, we ran away from the killings, we ran away from the war, and we came here, and when we got here, we thought it was over," said Sannoh. "But then here we are again, faced with the same situation that we have been running away from years and years and years."
Quinn James is also set to stand trial in her murder, but a date for that hasn't been set yet.