‘He had a smile that was just so beautiful’: Grandmother remembers 2-year-old boy killed in Albert Lea

Published 8:53 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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Grandmother recalls memories spent with grandson killed this week in Albert Lea

For much of his life, 2-year-old Ahziyas Dampha was what his grandmother, Leslie Sullivan, described as her sidekick.

The young boy with a big smile loved when people sang to him, especially songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” said Sullivan, who lives in Emmons. She said the toddler particularly liked the hand motions that went with the songs, and in the last few months had started getting more vocal.

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He also loved riding in her yellow Mini Cooper that she just got in June. Yellow and blue were his favorite colors, and those were often the first colors of M&Ms he would eat and the first Legos he would pick out.

Sullivan said she would watch her grandson several days a week, along with his now 3-month-old brother, A’ries, and for a time Ahziyas had even lived with her.

“My life will never, ever be the same,” she said. “He was a major part of my life.”

She said she was heartbroken to receive word that her grandson died Thursday as she was traveling to Texas for the funeral of her cousin.

Prosecutors have charged Austin Navarro with his death. Navarro, his mother’s boyfriend, was caring for him and his brother while their mother was at work that day.

Just the night before he died, she recalled watching Ahziyas and transferring him to his car seat when it was time for him to go home. She said he had been asleep but woke up just enough for her to tell him that she loved him.

She said her heart is breaking for her daughter and her younger daughter, Ahziyas’ aunt, who was also close with him..

As she thinks about the memories they shared in his short life, Sullivan said she is holding on to the time they had together.

The toddler loved playing in water, cuddling with her and being snuggled up in soft blankets.

He also loved his younger brother and would comfort him and tell him it was OK if he cried.

“He had a smile that was just so beautiful,” Sullivan said.

“I can’t believe that it’s real,” she added.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family under “Remembering Ahziyas.”