ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — In Lilly Garcia’s short life, her big brown eyes sparkled — just like her personality, her parents say. She swept into a room and filled it with laughter.
The 4-year-old died this week in a road rage shooting that has stunned her community in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Tearful relatives clutched a picture of Lilly — her hand perched on her cheek with a big smile — as they remembered her.
“My Illiana Rose had this personality that would just be over and above her age, and this smile and these beautiful big brown eyes and would just light up a room,” her mother, Veronica Garcia, told CNN affiliate KOAT.
“The first time you met her, she’d just grab your heart.”
Lilly loved dancing, singing and school. She loved to prance around in a pair of pink boots she got as a present. And the girl nicknamed Lilly Willy was so easy-going, relatives said it’s hard to imagine their life without her.
“We wouldn’t want anybody in our shoes,” said her father, Allen Garcia.
Police: Man confessed to killing
Lilly died Tuesday after a gunman opened fire on her father’s car as he drove on Interstate 40. The attack occurred after two vehicles cut each other in traffic, authorities said.
Tony Torrez, 32, has confessed to the shooting, and was taken into custody Wednesday, authorities said.
“He confessed to the murder of little Lilly Garcia,” police Chief Gorden Eden said.
Authorities got a break in the case after an anonymous call from someone who said they had information on the suspect.
The caller provided the suspect’s name and together with other community tips, detectives found the suspect.
What started the shooting?
The incident started Tuesday afternoon when two vehicles cut each other, according to Officer Simon Drobik, a police spokesman.
A short while later, shots rang out. One of the drivers pulled up to the vehicle carrying the girl and opened fire, Drobik said.
The father had just picked up Lilly and her brother, 7, from school. The children were sitting in the back seat of their father’s red pickup, but their mother wasn’t with them.
“To me this is one of those crimes that’s just unexplainable,” the police chief said. “This should never have happened. This is a compete disregard of human life.”
Authorities said they believe the incident occurred within a 2-mile stretch of the interstate, adding that the suspect pulled up alongside the pickup and fired multiple shots.
The suspect was the only occupant in his vehicle.
It appears the family did not know the suspect, police told CNN affiliate KOAT.
Authorities expressed shock at the girl’s killing.
“There were two children in this truck that this animal decided to open fire on just because he happened to get cut off on the freeway,” said Tanner Tixier, another police spokesman.
Investigators were still trying to determine the number of shots fired, but the father, Allen Garcia, said the suspect fired “multiple shots.” .
Allen Garcia pulled over after the shooting and together with a few nurses who stopped to help, gave Lilly first aid as they waited for medics.
“To have your child in your hands in such circumstances is going to live with the father for the rest of his life,” Eden said.
Torrez is charged with an open count of murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, assault with the intent to commit a violent felony, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, child abuse, child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence.
He is being held on a $650,000 cash-only bond.