By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Classmates of a 6-year-old girl who police say was run over and killed by her mother have planted a tree in her memory at Lloyd Elementary School.
Samantha Martin had been a first-grader at Lloyd until she was killed March 29. On Monday morning, some of Samantha's classmates planted a Barrington flowering pear tree next to the school's sign as a memorial.
The 5-foot-6-inch tree, which was donated by Home Depot of Niles, does not bear fruit, but flowers.
Danielle Mackall, the chairman of the Lloyd PTA's garden committee described the planting ceremony as "quiet." The tree planting was discussed Monday night at an Austintown school board meeting.
"That's wonderful, that the school would plant a memorial," she said.
She said that once the tree was placed in the ground, Samantha's classmates and teacher helped place dirt around its trunk. A written selection about spring also was read aloud, Mackall said.
"It was a real inspirational reading," she said.
Samantha's classmates and teacher wrapped a bow around the tree before the ceremony ended. Mackall said that bricks and a plaque would be placed near the tree in the future. She said she was not sure what would be on the plaque.
Samantha's mother, Sherry Delker, 27, of South Turner Road, has been charged with aggravated murder in her daughter's death. Delker, who could face the death penalty if convicted, is being held in Trumbull County jail without bond. She has pleaded innocent.
Police said Samantha was killed around 8 a.m. on Prospect Street near state Route 46 in Mineral Ridge, next to St. Mary Church. Crime lab officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol found a tire tread on Samantha's shirt that they said resembled the tread on Delker's front tires.
Police said Delker told them she went to the church to ask forgiveness after sending her daughter to a "better place." According to her attorney, Delker is suffering from mental illness and is on medication.
The Mahoning County Coroner's office said an autopsy showed that Samantha, who died of multiple internal injuries, had been sexually abused. Mahoning County officials are investigating the possible abuse.
Mackall, who has two children, called Samantha's death "just horrific."
"I can't put it into words," she said, adding that Lloyd parents are saddened by the death.