Exeter Police say the 3-year-old girl known as Sophia has died

EXETER, Calif.

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Meanwhile Exeter Police are calling her death a homicide and are investigating whether she may have been sexually abused.

People came to pay their respects to little Sophia Thursday night. Mourners placed candles, stuffed animals and other mementos on the ground outside of the apartment where Exeter Police found her unresponsive this past weekend. Nearly a hundred people gathered in prayer for the three year old at Triangle Park.

Illy Perez didn't know Sophia, but decided to drive from Tulare to grieve with others. Perez says she suffered sex abuse as a child and that more needs to be done to break the cycle of violence.

"It's sad that she had to go as far as you know what happened, but when it comes to the sexual abuse I can really get with her there and so. I mean I don't know what I would do if anything like that happened to my son." said Perez.

Investigators have named Sophia's mother and her boyfriend as persons of interest. But no arrests have been made.

"We're waiting on some lab result tests to come back from the regional lab in Fresno and of course sadly we're going to be waiting on the autopsy results as well." said Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush.

The most recent statistics available show more than nine thousand reports of child abuse in Tulare County in 2009. Only about one in nine cases were substantiated. 130 of those cases fell under the sexual or physical abuse category.

"We want to prevent this from happening ever. And we want to make people so aware that they cannot turn their head and say it's none of my business. Ohh yes." said Billie Shawl.

Billie Shawl is the coordinator for the county's Child Abuse Prevention Council. The group has been giving out blue ribbons on the heels of child awareness month in April. The blue ribbons could be seen pinned on dozens of people at the vigil. Many of them consoled Sophia's family members who still blame the mother and her boyfriend for her death.

"Anytime you hurt a baby, you've hurt them all. And they're going to get him. They're going to get him for it. You can't do things like that. Not as bad as they hurt my baby." said Ruth Williams who is Sophia's great grandmother.

Sophia's year and a half old sister has been placed with Child Protective Services. Police did not give us a timetable to when those lab results would be available.


A memorial fund has been set up to help the family of Sophia Acosta pay for funeral expenses.

If you would like to donate, an account has been set up at the Bank of America Branch in Exeter.

The account number is 0888869510.


Any Wells Fargo Branch
Sophia Marie Acosta Memorial


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