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Perla Nieto Remembered As Community Mourns

Midday on Thursday, December 7, many in the area were shocked to find out that a horrific act had occurred at their local Kroger grocery store.

Perla Nieto, a longtime employee, and friend to many in the community as well as those who regularly shop at the store was stabbed to death while she was on her shift at the Waynedale Kroger. Police say that a 30-year-old (name omitted as to not glorify the killer) had an interaction with Nieto and other Kroger employees around 10:30 am and left the store, but then returned to the store about 30 minutes later. According to court documents, the attacker grabbed Nieto from behind and began stabbing her before pulling Nieto to the floor and continuing to stab her.

Witnesses say that after the attacker quickly left, fellow employees and customers rushed to Perla’s aid as they called an ambulance and began to attempt to revive her. She was later pronounced dead.

On the same day, police identified the attacker, apprehended, and charged him. He reportedly still had the knife that was used in the attack in his pocket when police found him.

As the day went on, community members horrified by such a heinous act began to share the news on social media as updates became available. Quickly, it was clear that it was indeed Perla Nieto based on witnesses’ accounts.

On social media, the anger and outrage of the event’s occurrence began to be replaced with support, hope, and love for the slain community member. Friends, colleagues, and shoppers of the Kroger store shared fond stories, prayers, and heartfelt messages for Perla, her family and employees of the store who were impacted by this event.

Kroger closed the store after the incident. And soon, candles, teddy bears, letters, and other memorial items began to be placed at the entrance to the store by community members as they visited the site.

That Thursday evening, William Garver, Lead Pastor of Waynedale United Methodist Church, and a handful of community members joined together in prayer at Kroger for Perla, her family, and everyone affected by the event.

Community members began to discuss online what they could do to help. By Friday morning, there was a vigil planned for 7pm that evening. However, given the short notice, there were growing concerns of being sure that everyone in the community who would like to attend knew about it. And that it couldn’t be held on Saturday because Kroger would reopen that day.

That’s when staff members of The Waynedale News began to receive calls and messages to help. As organizers of many community events in the past and the ability to effectively communicate with the other media as well as the ability to reach out to the community at-large, The Waynedale News’ Alex Cornwell, Megan Ryan and Jordan Cornwell lovingly accepted and dropped everything they were working on that day to make sure the event was held appropriately. With just 8 hours until the event, newspaper staff began working with the original vigil organizers, Alesha Parnin and Sara Smile, and began to write the vigil script, calling religious leaders in the area and seeking the approval from Kroger to be sure the large-scale event would not be interrupted. All the while, The Waynedale News began to create and promote an event on Facebook and sending announcements to the media. Camille Garrison assisted the effort with a donation of candles from Waynedale United Methodist as well as procuring a sound system with the ability to ensure that everyone who attended the gathering could hear.

Shortly before the ceremony, vehicles began to arrive in Kroger’s parking lot. And then more. And even more, until the parking lot was nearly full. As hundreds of people somberly made their way to the entrance of the store and began to light their candles, there was a thickness in the air. An undeniably heavy feeling. Our community was hurting, and it had now come together to mourn, support each other, and celebrate Perla’s memory.

Lit by candles, a large crowd extended into the depths of the parking lot surrounding Perla’s family. Father Glenn Kohrman of Saint Therese Catholic Church began the vigil with 59 seconds of silence to honor each year of Perla’s life. Father Kohrman then led the vigil in prayer, scripture, and song throughout the ceremony.

Perla’s children and a grandchild shared memories about their mom and grandma through tears and heartbreak, still in shock from the event that took their mom’s life. Friends, coworkers, patrons of the store and other community members took turns speaking about how wonderful and loving they knew Perla to be. Some praying for justice for her.

With many requests to donate in person or online to support Perla’s family, there was an opportunity to give at the vigil, which raised $922. In addition, The Waynedale News is hosting a GoFundMe online fundraiser in coordination with Perla’s family for anyone who would like to give at: gofund.me/1f1e4b11

Many people commented after the event about how profound Perla’s impact was on so many lives. And, how meaningful it was to see how many people from the community came to be there to be supportive, even if they just knew Perla as a smiling face each time they shopped at the store.

The Nieto Family was given the opportunity to speak to the community in The Waynedale News and here is what they wrote:

On December 7, 2023, a terrible tragedy occurred. It was an event that no one could ever be prepared for and hopefully no one would ever have to live through.

Our mother, Perla Alicia Garza Nieto, was taken away from the world, the community, and our family through an unimaginable act. Immediately following the event there was a feeling of loss that was palpable throughout Fort Wayne and all the lives our mother touched. There are numerous resources that go over grief and the recovery process but in those resources, there are some common themes, such as time to heal and support for the bereaved.

When the term pillar of the community is brought up, a lot of us can usually identify an individual that fits that title. In our limited time of meeting hundreds of loyal Kroger customers, fellow employees, and friends of Perla, we can confidently claim that our mother was a pillar of the Kroger family and the Waynedale community. Her bright smile, warm heart, and unyielding generosity were characteristics that caused people to flock to her. She could remember entire families, professions, and faces from decades past and would be sure to ask how she could help. She regularly volunteered for community events, races, and was a dedicated attendee for parades and festivals throughout the city. There were no strangers, only friends she hadn’t met yet. How could we move forward when someone this genuine was removed so suddenly? Well, it has already started because of all of you.

We are writing this to thank you all, the Waynedale community, Fort Wayne residents, and our family. The support that has been provided to our family has been unbelievable and every day we run in to more people that can share stories about Perla and how she brightened their days. Your kind words and prayers resonate through our hearts and how our mother has enriched hundreds if not thousands of lives over 50 years across the country. Our world will never be the same and although we all share the feeling of despair, we should all rejoice in knowing we are not alone, but together. You all have shown us this in just a few long days, and we could not be more thankful. The community has truly enabled the healing process to begin, and for that, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

The Nieto Family

The Waynedale News Staff
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