WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — It’s been five years since the death of Lauren Landavazo and a horse in honor of her and her friend Makayla Smith who was wounded back in a 2016 shooting is once again in its rightful place, in front of McNiel Middle School.
After the original ‘Forever’ horse statue for Lauren and Makayla was stolen last year, both of their families and the community were left shocked and heartbroken.
The original ‘Forever’ horse was found in pieces in a barn along FM 2393 in Clay County.
The Landavazo’s as well as family friend Bethany Tolley who designed both horses said the love and generosity of the community are responsible for this beautiful replacement.
“It just felt like we were all wrapped in the warmth of the love from the community,” Tolley said.
Once again, Wichita Falls residents joined together to honor Lauren’s legacy, whose life was taken way too soon, and her friend Makayla Smith.
“It was heartbreaking when the original horse was destroyed knowing all the love and the way that the community rallied behind getting that horse put together,” Vern Landavazo said.
Lauren’s parents said they have the community as well as Tolley’s family to thank for this new statue.
“I really can’t take credit for this new horse the community did everything, I was just the tool,” Tolley said.
Tolley said the design of the horse, painted in both girls’ favorite colors, blue and purple, represents strength and love.
“Strength for Makayla for her to work through the effects from that pain that she still faces every single day and for her to be so positive and resilient,” Tolley said.
“And love for Lauren because even though she is not here everybody feels her love, we remember her smile and it just brings us closer together even though she is not here with us anymore.”
The Landavazo’s said if she was still with us, Lauren would be graduating from Rider High School on Saturday.
“It was just overwhelming to know they care so much and they were determined to catch who did it and they did they also donated for the new horse and [we’re] very grateful,” Bianka Landavazo said.
“Seeing how outraged the community became when it was stolen, it made me realize how much this horse means to people outside of the families affected and the students that go to McNiel and the students that are graduating,” Tolley said.
Vern Landavazo said it is heartwarming to know the community has not forgotten that tragic day or Lauren.
“Our strength comes from having an amazing legacy to carry on, our daughter,” Vern Landavazo said. “And this place McNiel, very symbolic for the horse to here because this where she made her legacy.”
A legacy that continues to live on.
Two teens were indicted in Wichita County in connection to the theft of the memorial horse statue.
Tyler Darland and Zachary Kaiser are indicted for theft over $2,500.
We are still waiting to hear back from local authorities regarding the two other suspects also named in that theft.