Investigators say 4-year-old Alex Mercado was sexually assaulted and killed by his 14-year-old neighbor, Raul Castro.
The crime happened last October inside Castro's Mendota apartment. Saturday, dozens of people gathered in Mendota to memorialize the little boy.
Alex Mercado's death last year touched this entire community. Saturday, dozens gathered at the Mendota community center to remember the happy four-year-old.
Alex's family says the pain of losing him still resonates with them every day. "Our family will never be the same, because of this. Never."
"I still want to call his name. I still want to count seven kids at my dinner table." Alex's mom, Mindy organized the vigil.
Friends and family members offered prayers and heart-felt stories.
"Tragedy should always make us stronger. If we're doing the right thing, it will make us stronger, and that's what's happening here in Mendota," family friend Matt Flood said.
The service also gave Alex's family a chance to say thank you to those who have been there for them since the very the beginning.
"I thought it would be something where you bury your son and everybody forgets. But, as it turns out, nobody has forgotten my son, and that really has touched my heart."
While Alex's family says they are healing, they admit, they still think about his death every day.
Investigators say Alex was playing in his front yard when his neighbor, Raul Castro lured him into his home.
After killing him, the 14-year-old allegedly stuffed Alex's tiny body into a clothing dryer.
Family members are still waiting for justice in the case so they can finally let their little angel rest in peace.
"I think that just because the trial hasn't taken place, I think that's why I haven't found my closure. I think once that happens, it can all sink in."
Jury selection in this case will begin in mid-November. Family members plan to be there throughout the entire trial.