IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Too Young to Die: Karla Valeria

The 5-year-old Bolivian immigrant quickly learned English and taught her mother.

Karla Valeria’s mother brought her to the United States from Bolivia after her first birthday. Most of her mother’s family had emigrated already, but they remained in South America until Karla’s father brought them to Chicago in December 2009. “It was always our family’s dream to bring [Karla's mother] to the United States,” Karla’s aunt, Nohemi Cossio, told MSNBC. “[Her mother] was doing great. She was living the American Dream.”

In previous years she enrolled Karla, now 5, in a pre-kindergarten program at the nearby Epiphany Catholic School, where the little girl quickly learned English. They spoke Spanish at home, “but once she started going to school, all she wanted to do was speak English. She was speaking English to everybody,” Cossio said. Karla was teaching the language to her mother, which she sometimes did by singing along to American tunes in the car.

Karla’s mother signed her up for a recreational soccer team. After the first game, she refused to return: she was the only girl on a field with all boy teammates. “She said, ‘I don’t want to play basketball, Mom.’ Her mom said, ‘That’s soccer.’ ‘Yeah, that. I don’t want to play that,’ ” Cossio said of her “girly” niece who loved the color pink. Karla turned to weekly ballet classes. In early August she visited Disney World in Florida, excited about a chance to see her favorite character, Tinker Bell.

“Her mother had her and she had her mother,” Cossio said. “She would mimic everything her mother would do.”

Karla was fatally shot, along with her mother, in their Chicago home on Aug. 13 during an apparent double murder and attempted suicide. The shooter, reportedly Karla’s estranged father, died after the incident.

More children's stories>