Balloon release marks one year since Leiliana Wright's death

An emotional balloon release on Monday marked one year since the death of 4-year-old Leiliana Wright.

The Grand Prairie girl's child abuse case slipped through the cracks at Child Protective Services and caused public outrage. But on Monday, the agency said changes have been made since Leiliana's death.

Her father and grandparents were joined by friends with handfuls of yellow balloons --Leiliana's favorite color.

"We live everyday knowing that we don't have our little girl,” said Craig Clakley, Leilliana's grandfather.

Police say the girl was abused and tortured. Her mother, Jeri Quezada, and her boyfriend, Charles Phifer, are in jail awaiting trial for felony charges of injury to a child.

"If we'd gotten her back she would be alive and a healthy little girl right now starting kindergarten,” Clakley said.

The memorial was held in front of the Tarrant County Family Law Center, where the grandparents lost custody of their granddaughter. They had her for two years, but when Leiliana's mother got out of prison she was given custody.

"The last day I saw her she screamed and cried, grabbed hold of me for dear life begging me not to send her back,” said Brian Maker, Leiliana's father.

Child Protective Services acknowledged an overloaded system caused failures in Leiliana's case that overlooked a pattern of severe abuse. The case led to firings and resignations of several CPS supervisors.

CPS would not comment on camera, but said in the year since Leiliana's death it's increased the number of case workers and cut the average case load for investigators by more than half -- from 32 to 15.

"For our granddaughter it was too late we can't bring her back,” said Alisa Clakley, Leilliana's grandmother. “We can hope and pray and fight for the kids of the future and that's what we're going to do."


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