Anger marks Nixzmary wake --
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Anger marks Nixzmary wake

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January 17, 2006

Even in death, Nixzmary Brown was surrounded by rage.

The two sides of her family nearly came to blows just feet from the open coffin where the body of the battered 7-year-old girl lay in a pearl white satin and chiffon dress Monday.

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Iris Rodriguez -- the sister of Nixzmary's stepfather, the man charged with killing her in a case that sparked outrage throughout the city -- showed up unexpectedly.

Carrying a bouquet of pink roses, Iris Rodriguez walked halfway across the chapel toward the coffin when she was confronted by the girl's angry maternal relatives.

"Please understand, you are not welcome here," said Caridad Ramos, an aunt.

"Go! Go!" screamed another relative.

Rodriguez persisted.

"I have to see my baby!" Rodriguez, 24, said through tears.

She was walked away by a community activist, then briefly returned, but never allowed to touch the white coffin, where heavy makeup covered multiple bruises on Nixzmary's face.

"OK, she will pass, but I am not going to be present," screamed a young man before storming off. Family members identified him only as a cousin of Nixzmary's mother.

A short time later, Iris Rodriguez was escorted out of the crowded wake not to return.

Prosecutors have blamed Nixzmary's beating death on both her mother and stepfather. The girl was found, beaten and emaciated at 38 pounds, in her Brooklyn home in the early morning hours last Wednesday.

The stepfather Cesar Rodriguez, 27, was charged with second-degree murder, while the girl's mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, who authorities said knew of the abuse and sometimes participated, was charged with second-degree manslaughter.

In a jailhouse interview with Newsday Sunday, Santiago said her husband was sometimes a good father to their children but was "blinded by the rage." Both parents were not at the funeral because they are behind bar with no bail.

In the funeral home, where hundreds of strangers also came to pay respects, anger was also directed at the city child welfare agency. the city's Administration for Children Services

"We need them to see what they did to Nixzmary!" shouted one relative, who opened the door for photographers and television cameras.

Among themselves, family members questioned each other over what went wrong. All have said they did not know what was happening in Santiago's home.

"They killed her! Why did they kill her?" screamed Maria Rodriguez, 53, the little girl's grandmother, who collapsed over the coffin. "They took her away from me!"

A funeral attendant approached her, and advised her not to touch the little girl's face, because, he said, it was covered in makeup. No one who had seen the little girl could recognize her.

"That's Nixzmary?" said a little cousin, a boy named Angel, 5.


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