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Memorial bench in Waterloo honors slain girl

Memorial bench in Waterloo honors slain girl

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WATERLOO (AP) - Etched in stone in the mirror polish of a stone bench, the image of Donnisha Hill keeps a watch over Ferguson-Fields Park.

It was added last month as a memorial to the slain 13-year-old.

"It couldn't have been at a better place," said her father, Adonnis Hill. "If you sit down at the bench and look out, you will look out to the front door of where she used to live."

Ferguson-Fields is on Oneida Street. Donnisha had lived three blocks away on Lewis Street, across from the man convicted of orchestrating her murder in 2006.

Carved by Hagarty Monuments, the bench is inscribed: "Weep not for me, for I am in glory waiting for thee."

This spring held special significance for Adonnis Hill and the girl's mother, Leneaka Johnson.

Had she continued to live, Donnisha Hill would have graduated from high school in May. The fact wasn't lost on East High School officials, who held a moment of special silence for her and other deceased East students as part of commencement ceremonies.

Earlier this month the Iowa Court of Appeals heard arguments in the parent's lawsuit against the school bus company for letting the girl off at the wrong stop the day she died.

The bench itself is part of a settlement between Johnson and Adonnis Hill and the City of Waterloo, Adonnis Hill said. He said he initially wanted the inscriptions on the biggest boulder he could find placed next to a busy highway but decided on Ferguson-Fields because it's a family park where children play.

The park has a double meaning for the family.

"Her and her sister used to go there and play and hang out. She would shoot basketball and everything," Adonnis Hill said. "It's bittersweet because the park where she used to play at is where things started to transpire between her and Dave."

Dave is David Damm, 63, a former neighbor convicted of ordering Donnisha Hill's death.

In fact, it was near the park that Adonnis Hill spotted his daughter getting out of Damm's van in 2006. The resulting inquiry uncovered allegations that Damm had sexually abused the girl.

As the police launched an investigation, Damm hired Bruce Burt to kill her, according to prosecutors. Burt drove her to Illinois and beat her to death with a hammer.

Damm was sentenced to death for murder and kidnapping, but the sentence was commuted to life in March when Illinois abolished the death penalty. Burt was sentenced to life in prison.

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