Fifteen years ago, Georgia Lee Moses’s life was cut short when she was strangled, then left under a tree near the Petaluma Boulevard South off-ramp.
The murder was never solved, although someone put a metal, three-dimensional angel on the spot to honor the 12-year-old girl. But the coverage of the killing was in many ways skewed, with Georgia Lee, who was Black, portrayed as a runaway who had brought about her own demise.
Consequently, many forgot about Georgia Lee and the small memorial lay surrounded by weeds and trash.
Then last Christmas, Maureen McGuigan, who owns the Mail Depot, was listening to the radio when she heard Tom Wait’s song “Georgia Lee,” which the Sonoma County balladeer penned in honor of the girl.
Read the lyrics here and listen to the song on the right
McGuigan had known Moses when she lived near her family in Rohnert Park. Georgia Lee’s mother was developmentally challenged. The father was long gone. All of which meant Georgia grew up quickly and fell in with the wrong crowd.
After the DJ said the song was in honor of Georgia Lee Moses, McGuigan was deeply moved.
“I’d heard the song before, but I never knew it was about her,” she said. Soon, McGuigan and friends Kit Lofroos and Dusty Resneck were trudging through the weeds near the off-ramp to visit the memorial. That's when they discovered that the iron angel was about to be removed by Caltrans in preparation for roadwork.
That prompted the group to try to find a new spot for the humble memorial.
“She was just a kid, but she never had a chance in life,” McGuigan said. “Her naked, strangled body was found on the side of the freeway, like a piece of trash…The memorial is a great opportunity for people to think about domestic violence and violence toward children, which is so prevalent in our society.”
On Saturday, November 3, the group will hold a small re-dedication ceremony at 3:30pm at City Hall, where the memorial has been moved.
“This kind of stuff happens every day around the world, although we want to pretend that it doesn’t or that it doesn’t affect us,” said Kit Lofroos, a Petaluma massage therapist who brought a proposal to the city to have the memorial installed on English Street. “We couldn’t save her, so I wanted to save the memorial and do something to keep her memory alive.”