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Portrait of Wichita teen touches grieving family, many across U.S.

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 7:29 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Two weeks after her death, the story of Brianna Ibarra is reaching people across the country. The 13-year-old girl died this month after she was dragged while trying to escape a stolen SUV. A man now charged with murder stole the vehicle while Brianna was inside.

Now, a portrait of the girl being shared online has reached thousands beyond the Wichita area. Brianna’s mother, Cindy Ibarra, said she will always remember her daughter as outgoing and full of life. She said she’s touched knowing that her daughter’s story has reached so many. Cindy didn’t want to go on camera, but after seeing the portrait being shared, her eyes filled up with tears.

Jonny Castro, a Philadelphia police officer, is the artist behind the portrait.

“For the department, I’m a forensic deposit artist, so I do the sketches of suspects for investigators. I also do reconstructions of homicide victims,” he said. “So that’s kind of what I do for the department during the day, and when I come home, I work on these portraits of fallen officers, fallen service members, K-9 victims of crime. In the past four years, I’ve done approximately 900 of them, all over the world.”

For Castro, Brianna Ibarra’s story was different.

“Somebody actually shared a link for a news report out there, and I had to read it,” he said. “It was just heartbreaking to read, but I felt compelled to do the portrait. I have a daughter the same age as Brianna, so it kind of really hit home, reading about what happened.”

Castro said Brianna’s portrait reached Wichita fast.

“It was shared, her friends were commenting, her family commented pretty quick,” he said. “But a lot of times, it really depends on how fast it gets to that area, and with Brianna’s portrait, it spread very fast.”

Castro spoke with Brianna’s mother and mailed the family prints of the portrait.

“It’s very special, any time I’m able to complete one of these portraits,” he said. “It’s meaningful, and not only that, making sure that they end up in the hands of the family means a lot to me. But I know it means a lot to them, as well.”

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