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Two statues created in memory of children who died from violence donated by retired Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele are being stored at Bras and Mattos Monument Company in Hayward, Calif., Tuesday April 8, 2014. One of the statues will be installed at Hayward City Hall while the other will remain in storage as Steele continues to work on getting approval from the city of Oakland. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

HAYWARD -- A 14-year-old girl's slaying in 1994 galvanized then-county Supervisor Gail Steele to create a memorial to children whose lives were violently cut short, first by planting a grove of trees and now with a statue at City Hall.

The image of Jenny Lin is one of three used for the statue, which will be dedicated Friday during a ceremony at City Hall where the names of children who have died from violence will be read aloud.

"In some ways, Jenny's horrible death started this whole thing," Steele said.

The Castro Valley girl was found stabbed to death in her family home, and her killer has never been identified. Her death got a lot of attention, and rightfully so, Steele said, but there was barely any mention of a 16-year-old boy slain in Oakland that same year.

"I realized how many children were dying and we weren't paying attention," she said. "We're talking close to 5,000 kids a year dying from violence in this country, but you find very few people talking about this national tragedy."

The statue also depicts two Oakland children: Warren Hoffman, who was 3 when his father fatally stabbed him and his mother, Nicole Azzalina, in 1992, and Christopher Jones, shot in a 2010 drive-by outside his home as the 17-year-old was helping seat a child in a car.

The Lins are grateful to Steele for choosing Jenny as one of the children for the statue, her father said.

"We haven't seen the real statue, but from the photographs, we thought it was amazing -- it's so vivid," John Lin said. "It made a deep impression on us."


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Thirteen Alameda County children died from violence last year, and some 400 since the 1990s, when Steele and some parents of victims began an annual remembrance. For years, one oak tree for each slain child was planted on a hillside, but, she said, the Castro Valley memorial grove was getting too big for the East Bay Regional Park District to maintain it.

The bronze sculpture will sit on a black granite base, with the names of the 49 Hayward children who have died from violence since the 1990s etched in white granite blocks on each side of the base. The sculpture will be visible from the Hayward BART station.

Steele commissioned a second statue for Oakland, but she has yet to get the that city's final approval for its installation.

Utah artist Dennis Smith, known for his sculptures of children, also has created artwork outside the Alameda County Eden Area Multiservice Center in Hayward. One called "Out of the Nest" features a mother putting a child on the back of a crane as it takes flight. Steele also bought that sculpture for the county.

Smith used a crane again in the Children's Memorial Sculpture.

"It represents the soul or spirit of the child," he said. "The crane of freedom and liberation within them is lifting its wings and rising above the tragedy."

The two bronze statues cost $100,000, plus another $12,000 for the granite bases, with most of the money coming from Steele's discretionary account accumulated when she was a county supervisor. She retired in 2010 after almost two decades on the board.

"I didn't spend very much when I was a supervisor," she said. After Steele retired, supervisors agreed that she could use the money for the sculptures. The rest of the money came from royalties on sales of children's memorial flags.

The Lins plan to attend Friday's dedication, which is open to everyone.

"The statue really helps to tell the public that we should not forget," John Lin said. "Nothing can be done to bring our child back, but we need to do as much as we can to remember her and to prevent these crimes against children from happening."

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.

Statue dedication
The Children's Memorial Sculpture for Hayward will be unveiled at the ceremony where Alameda County children who died from violence will be honored.
When: 3 p.m. Friday
Where: Outside Hayward City Hall, facing BART, 777 B St.