first_imgThe distraught mother moved out of state soon after and has not been in touch with anyone from the gym since.George Valdez, the owner of Muay Thai in Whittier and East Los Angeles, said the placement of the marker, which reads, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” is long overdue.“There were some people, other gyms in fact, who said they would raise money, but nothing came of it,” he said.Instead of waiting further and continuing what he called “an injustice to her memory,” Valdez and Larry Fuentes, superintendent of United Memorial Products Inc., decided to band together to get the little girl’s resting place settled.“Anna Marie brought great energy to the gym,” Valdez, 50, said.She was introduced to the sport at the East Los Angeles site by her uncle, Giovanni, who doesn’t attend anymore.“I see him around, but he was never the same,” Valdez said.Butanda, 31, remembers Anna Marie as an enthusiastic student.“She wanted to be a professional kickboxer,” he said.“Now she’s a champion in heaven,” he said, fighting back [email protected](562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! • Video: Headstone for Anna MarieWHITTIER – More than two years after being laid to rest at Rose Hills Mortuary and Memorial Park, Anna Marie Rico’s grave remains unmarked.But thanks to her “family” at Valdez Muay Thai Kickboxing, the 9-year-old’s grave will be adorned with a black marble headstone.“It was a Friday morning,” said Joe Butanda, kickboxing champion and trainer, recalling what happened, “and we had been sparring for about a round and a half.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre But after about five minutes of exercise, the young Montebello resident fell to the mat and stopped breathing.“She had been breathing funny and then she dropped,” he said, shaking his head. “There isn’t a day that I don’t remember her and what happened.”Anna Marie was resuscitated on the 18-foot-by-18-foot ring by responding paramedics who used a defibrillator on her small body three times.She died at a hospital. The cause of death was determined to be a heart attack.Anna Marie was the only child of a single mother who, for months after, would visit the gym and touch the place where the girl took her last breath.last_img

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