RIVER RIDGE, La. – Seven-year-old Paige DeJean called her father every Sunday to keep him updated about school, her friends and just how much she has missed him since he deployed to the Middle East in June with his Louisiana Army National Guard unit.
But on Sunday, instead of a bubbly conversation with his little girl, Staff Sgt. Henry DeJean received a call from her mother with the devastating news that Paige had been killed, shot by a stray bullet as she slept in her River Ridge apartment.
"He was thinking it was his daughter calling him. He had no idea somebody was calling him to tell him she got shot," said Mia DeJean-Yepez, Henry DeJean's sister.
Paige was shot in the neck Sunday just after 4 a.m. as she slept on an air mattress with a 10-year-old cousin in her living room at Mark Twain II apartments. She was taken to Ochsner Medical Center in Old Jefferson, where she was pronounced dead.
Authorities still aren't sure exactly what happened, but several bullets ripped through two buildings in the apartment complex, according to Sheriff's Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato. No one else was injured. Deputies investigating complaints of gunfire in the area around the same time Paige was shot found several .9 mm shell casings.
By Monday evening, investigators had no suspects in her murder.
"We're asking anyone who lives in that area, works in that area or who may have seen something to please call our homicide division," Fortunato said.
Henry DeJean, meanwhile, was back in Louisiana by Monday; his first stop, the coroner's office, according to DeJean-Yepez. Paige's mother, Alkema Anderson, and the entire family are devastated.
"Nothing like this has ever happened in our family," DeJean-Yepez said. "We don't know what to do. You don't know how to feel. One minute you're angry, the next minute, you're crying."
Paige lived in River Ridge with her mother while her father lived in Hammond with his wife, Dianna DeJean, and their daughter, 1-year-old Brieana. But Paige, who absolutely adored her father, visited Hammond every weekend until her dad's deployment, according to her aunt.
Paige had recently become a big sister again, to 3-week-old Jasmine. But she had not yet met her new baby stepsister.
"She was going to meet her over the holidays," DeJean-Yepez said.
Paige was outgoing, loved to play and was quite the chatterbox, according to her aunt.
"She talked about everything: Sponge Bob, Hannah Montana, everything on TV. She was the life of the party," DeJean-Yepez said. "She was just a beautiful, well-loved child."
It was an affection shared by her classmates and the staff at Hazel Park Elementary School in River Ridge where Paige was an honor roll student in second grade.
"We're all very upset and in mourning," principal Karen Bucher said. "Paige was the type of child everybody knew. She was like a bright light when she entered the room. She's definitely very much missed here."