CINCINNATI -- Whenever Alexandrea Thompson was scared, her aunt Aja Bryant said Tuesday night, her first instinct was to hide behind her father.
And so, on Jan. 18, when three men entered his Burnet Avenue home and gunfire rang out inside, 9-year-old Thompson -- called "Sissy" by those who loved her -- ran for the safest place she could think of.
"That was her normal," Bryant said. "We all know her enough to know in her mind with her being afraid, her thought process had to be, 'If I am behind my dad, I am okay.'"
The bullets that struck him struck her, too. Although her father’s condition stabilized overnight, Thompson's did not. She died at Children’s Hospital the next day.
Despite public outpourings of grief from the Mount Auburn community and from city officials such as Mayor John Cranley, who raised money to offer as a reward for information about the shooters, police had not arrested any suspects in connection with Thompson's death by Tuesday night.
"My fear is that it won’t be solved," Bryant said. "My fear is that people could be right next to us that know something. People could show up at the funeral that know something that won't speak."
She added that she believes Thompson’s father was the intended target of the shooting, but she was not sure why he would be the victim of such an attack.
With Cranley’s help, Crime Stoppers increased the reward for information to $2,500 -- the largest that the organization offers -- and reiterated its commitment to protecting the identity of any person who came forward with information leading to an arrest.
For Bryant, the fear of allowing her niece’s killer to slip away is a real and pressing one. A girl as bright and sweet as Thompson, she said, deserved far more from life than she was allowed to have.
"I know you looked in her face," she said of the shooter. "I know you saw her, and to pull a trigger even in the vicinity of a child -- you can’t have a soul. … Her birthday is April 24. She would have been 10 years old this year, and you took her life before she could even see a decade."
Anyone with information about Alexandrea Thompson's death is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040.