KINGSLAND, Ga. — Kingsland neighbors are raising money so a local 5-year-old who died last week can have a proper burial.
Monday night, loved ones of Matthew Ortega gathered for a candlelight vigil for the young boy.
Camden County deputies said Ortega died from abuse caused by his own mother. They said her boyfriend is also facing charges.
“He was such a good boy. He was so sweet and kind,” said family friend Irma Navarrete.
Navarrete is raising funds through events like this one to ensure Mateo has a proper burial.
“I wish I was around more, that I wish I didn’t work so much, I was able to be with him more and hang out with him more,” she said.
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Action News Jax reported Friday that Camden County deputies said they were flagged down by a couple who didn't speak English.
The Sheriff’s Office quickly learned Mateo was unconscious on a woman’s lap, and he later died.
The Medical Examiner's office in Jacksonville said the child's death was due to abuse by the child's mother, Maria Alas.
Deputies charged her with two counts of cruelty to a child and murder.
Alas' boyfriend, Max Meza, was charged with making false statements and writings.
The group Monday wanted Mateo remembered not for how he died, but for how he lived.
“I want people to remember Mateo with his smile ... I can’t stress that enough,” Sherian Smith said. “He’s looking down on us and he’s smiling right now. And that’s how he needs to be remembered.”
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