BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was one of Wester New York's most disturbing crimes, 23-year-old Laura Cummings was mentally challenged and died after being tortured by members of her own family.
Cummings' death cast a spotlight on Child Protective Services in Erie County. During a lengthy investigation, it was revealed that workers who came to Cummings' North Collins home to check on her welfare reported nothing improper happening. All calls were listed as 'unfounded.'
After her death in 2010, the Loving Laura Project was started. Phase one of the project was getting a headstone for Laura's final resting place in a small cemetery in North Collins.
Phase two of the project was the Angel of Hope monument. It is located behind the chapel inside Forest Lawn Cemetery.
A small dedication ceremony was held on Thursday before the unveiling of the statue.
"The monument has a multi-faceted purpose. It's to honor Laura and children who have been lost for any reason," Loving Laura Project founder Suzanne McKenney said.
The statue resonates with families who have experienced the loss of a child including the Walsh family. Five year old James Walsh was killed in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day.
"I believe that the Angel of Hope memorial statue will provide many families that visit here with a similar feeling of faith, hope and love" said Walsh family friend Howard Rich.
The Loving Laura Project raised money for the Angel of Hope. It cost $40,00. Donations are still being taken for the remaining $10,000 needed.
Laura's death has raised awareness about child abuse and domestic violence. Authorities say she was tortured, scalded, beaten, and sexually brutalized-- at the hands of her mother and half-brother. Both are in prison.
"Speak to authorities and report difficulties. If you know that is going on in someone's life, use courage and do not be afraid to speak up," McKenney said.