Family and friends on Saturday morning mourned 26-year-old Ariyana Asurae Jones-Sanders, a teaching assistant and mother of two young children who was fatally shot in her south Sacramento home earlier this month.
The memorial at Arcade Church on Marconi Way was attended by friends, family and those who worked with the teacher at Sacramento Country Day School. Many spoke about the mother’s relentless love for her family and passion for teaching.
Her husband, Marcus Sanders, and the couple’s two children attended the ceremony. They sat feet away from a metallic casket adorned with pink and white flowers. Next to it, an enlarged photograph of Jones-Sanders showed her wearing a simple black shirt as she flashed a smile.
“It’s been a difficult, difficult week for me and my family,” Sanders said to the crowd of about 100 people who attended the memorial.
The ceremony came nine days after several bullets pierced through the family’s tan-colored home on Tortola Way in south Sacramento. Sanders and their two children, Lola and Marcus Sanders Jr., were in the home at the time of the shooting.
Jones-Sanders’ death came as a shock to those who knew her, saying they saw a young life cut short. A south Sacramento native, the mother had gone door to door just months before the shooting asking local residents to join a neighborhood watch group in response to a string of robberies in the area.
“She tried to help her community, and that’s what I don’t understand,” said Anetra Williams, Jones-Sanders’ aunt, following the memorial.
Jones-Sanders had worked at Country Day, a private school in the city’s Sierra Oaks neighborhood, since 2009. She was hired as a camp counselor at age 19, said Joy Pangilinan-Kronemeyer, director of County Day’s after-school and summer programs.
“She just had a big heart, a kind heart, and she just loved children,” Pangilinan-Kronemeyer said following the ceremony.
In 2014, Jones-Sanders was promoted to a teaching assistant, where she worked with students in the school’s pre-kindergarten program. Family and friends said Jones-Sanders had ambitions of going back to college to pursue a degree in child development and further her career as a teacher at the private school.
“Whether you were an adult or a child, Ariyana would make you feel like you mattered,” said pre-kindergarten teacher Barbara Fackenthall, who worked alongside Jones-Sanders at the school.
Jones-Sanders was the second of three children in her family, according to the memorial program. Both family and friends affectionately referred to Jones-Sanders by her nicknames, “Nunu” and “Banana.”
Both her brother, Moddy Jones, and sister, Kaitlin Angela Jones, spoke at the memorial of a hardworking and bubbly young Jones-Sanders.
“You’ll always be in my thoughts and always in my heart,” Moddy Jones said.
A private burial at East Lawn Memorial Park followed the ceremony.
As of Saturday morning, detectives working on the case could not provide any new information in the ongoing investigation, according to Traci Trapani, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento Police Department.
Williams said she and Jones-Sanders’ family hoped they would soon find an explanation for her niece’s death.
“We’re looking for closure for this,” she said after the memorial. “Who did this? Why?”
“(It was) tragic, senseless,” Pangilinan-Kronemeyer said. “I just want justice for Ariyana.”
A GoFundMe page set up by the Sacramento Country Day School on behalf of Jones-Sanders’ family had garnered more than $98,800 in donations by Saturday afternoon, with funds going to immediate costs associated to the mother’s death, as well as to provide ongoing support for her children.