MARIETTA, Ga. -- Vibrant. Young. Beautiful.
Those were the words used to describe 14-year-old Ana Marisol Then, killed in a Marietta house fire allegedly set by her stepfather. Her brother was able to escape with his life, but Then could not and died in a bedroom of the home on Shadowridge Drive.
Family and friends laid Then to rest during a celebration of life memorial on July 30. But now, family and close friends of the teen are speaking exclusively to 11Alive to remember the teen’s life and reveal new details about the suspect, 37-year-old Dafareya Hunter, facing charges in her death.
Ana's father spoke to 11Alive’s Neima Abdulahi on Tuesday and said he's still heartbroken after losing his baby girl, and a close family friend said she'll never forgive the person who did this.
Sharome Dorham was at Then’s funeral and said it was an unsettling experience. “It was just so surreal watching her laying there,” Dorham said. “It was almost like it was a nightmare." Then was her son’s godsister, and Dorham said he saw her every weekend.
Dorham told 11Alive the family believes Then was not able to escape from the fire because she was physically assaulted by Hunter before the fire.
"He put his hands on her. She was knocked unconscious. And that's when the fire was set," Dorham said.
A spokesperson from Cobb County Police said they can't confirm that information yet because the fire is still an on-going investigation. But Hunter was indeed arrested in Florida and charged with child cruelty, arson, murder and aggravated assault in connection to the case. He’s now being held in the Cobb County Jail.
Sharome said it’s hard to believe that something like this could have happened without anyone knowing something was going on.
"My son spent weeks over there,” she said. “Had I known or had an inclination that the man living there would be responsible or could have this heart to do something like this as a parent, I would have had a better precaution of sending my child there."
Dorham said she's now focused on working to help her son cope with the loss as she tries to do the same.
"When you're young and you witness death, it's very hard,” she said.
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