Friends, family celebrate on what would have been Nalani Johnson’s birthday

PITTSBURGH — It’s been just over one year since 2-year-old Nalani Johnson was kidnapped in Penn Hills. Her body was found days later, still strapped in a car seat at a park in Indiana County.

On Tuesday, friends, family members and the community gathered to celebrate what would have been her third birthday.

Johnson’s mother planned the party for her daughter and the entire Penn Hills community.

“I was really excited. That’s why I opened it up to the community so everybody could come and celebrate her life,” said Gladys Duarte, Johnson’s mother.

Children whom Johnson played with were there to celebrate her life too.

Johnson’s face could be seen all around, even on T-shirts.

Even though it’s a time of joy, the obvious void was painful.

“We got the cake. We have ice cream. We have the candles, and the only thing that’s missing is her,” said Taylor Parks, Johnson’s aunt.

Her family and friends couldn’t hold back their tears as they listened to the same song that played at Johnson’s funeral.

“Everyone loved her. People that didn’t know her were obsessed with her, and she was such a beautiful soul, and I’m so glad we are here today to celebrate her because everyone misses her so much,” said Sara Garcia, Johnson’s cousin.