Acoustic guitar chords rang from the speakers, and the 60 or so people filling the sanctuary clapped along with the music. But the services held last night at the Parkway Christian Church in Davie weren't the usually scheduled Sunday fare. Instead, friends and family gathered last night to mark the date: two months since anyone has seen a 2-year girl-old girl snatched by her now-fugitive mother.
On May 13, 22-year-old Megan Everett ran from her last known address with her daughter, Lilly Abigail. For the previous year, Everett had been through a grueling custody battle with Lilly's father, Robert Baumann. After months of court appearances, in late March a Broward County judge had finally awarded the parents 50-50 custody -- a victory for Baumann. Since Everett had begun dating and living with a new boyfriend, the father had increasingly had trouble seeing his daughter and was growing worried about her living conditions.
Then, on a Tuesday afternoon in May, Baumann went to pick Lilly up for his scheduled time. Everett's boyfriend, Carlos Lesters, told the father Everett had taken the baby and moved out. A letter later found by police written by Megan stated she wasn't going to let a judge tell her how to raise her daughter and ostensibly used Baumann's effort to have Lilly vaccinated as a reason for running (even though the girl had been vaccinated before).
Now, two months later, after numerous newspaper accounts and television stories and with a federal warrant out on Megan, Everett and Lilly are still AWOL.
As children Lilly's age stacked blocks and drew with crayons on a carpet in the middle of sanctuary yesterday, the church's pastor led a service mixed with songs, sermon, and prayer's for Lilly's safe return, inside the same room where Megan had spent many Sundays and where Lilly was dedicated.
"I do not believe Megan is a bad woman," the Rev. David Walton said in his brief remarks. "I know her far too well. Instead, she is a woman who has made bad choices."
The services were organized by Everett's mother and sister, Pam and Stephanie -- both of whom supported Baumann in his custody struggle with Megan. The two have also been active spreading the word about Lilly's disappearance on Facebook with a "Bring Lilly Home" page that has drawn support from across the country.
After the service, Baumann seemed to be struggling to keep his spirits up. "Every day is another day," he said. On his daughter, the father couldn't report any new leads, although Baumann does now have a private investigator working the case. "He believes that she's not here in the state. She's hiding."