Parks and Rec

Park Honoring Slain Boys to Bring Joy, Healing

Later this year, a new park is scheduled to spring up in Chula Vista near the spot where the bodies of 9-year old Jonathan Sellers and 13-year-old Charlie Keever were discovered in 1993, days after a sexual predator kidnapped and killed them.

Milena Sellers-Phillips, Jonathan’s mother, said the park will bring joy and healing.

“I’m so happy,” she said this week. “To me, this park will bring cleansing.

“It will be a memorial to the boys,” she said, “but it will also just be a beautiful place. We can’t change the past, but I know we can make it (park) something really good, something we can be proud of. That’s what the park represents to me.”

County supervisors unanimously approved spending $175,000 March 27 to create the “Keever & Sellers Educational Activity Center,” at the recommendation of Supervisor Greg Cox, whom Sellers-Phillips approached for help.

Sellers-Phillips talked about the park and her story this week as she, Charlie’s mother, Maria Keever, and friends, family and relatives of other homicide victims prepared to hold a candlelight vigil Thursday night for Jonathan and Charlie.

Sellers-Phillips said the vigil would be the first one ever held for the boys, 19 years after their deaths. She said that for many years she couldn’t really think about holding a vigil for her son because “it was too raw.”

But Sellers-Phillips said she was changed in 2009-2010 when two other San Diego children — Amber Dubois and Chelsea King — went missing and were found murdered.

Sellers-Phillips said she was actually one of the many volunteers who helped search for Chelsea King.

“That’s when I realized I had my strength,” she said.

Sellers-Phillips said she knew then she wanted to do something to honor Jonathan and Charlie, and fixed upon the ideas of creating a park and holding a vigil.

She said she approached numerous local political leaders in her quest, and was ultimately led to Supervisor Cox, whose first supervisorial district includes unincorporated areas around Chula Vista.

Cox said he was only too happy to help.

“We started meeting with Milena Sellers-Phillips and Maria Keever almost nine months ago, and we set to work right away to do something that would not mark Jonathan and Charlie’s deaths, but something that would celebrate their lives,” Cox said.

The park will be built near the scenic Bayshore Bikeway, on property owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in an agreement reached by the federal agency and the San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation. The current plan will build a concrete pad shaped like a spiraling nautilus shell — 30 feet wide — with climbing rocks wildlife viewing telescopes and a curved seating area.

Meanwhile, with the goal of the park met, Sellers-Phillips looked forward to Thursday night’s vigil. The event was scheduled to take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursday at the Swiss Park at 2001 Main Street in Chula Vista. Cox, Congressman Bob Filner, Senator Juan Vargas, and San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez are among the guests expected to attend.

“For me it will be bittersweet,” Sellers-Phillips said, “but more sweet. As a victim we don’t want to forget our loved ones. I’m sure that I’ll probably shed some tears, but they’ll be happy tears.”