FULTON, NY – The local community came together Thursday evening (April 20) to honor the life of 39-year-old Amber Neivel after her body was discovered in the Oswego River on April 9.
Neivel’s two children, father, sister, and several relatives were showered with support from loved ones and strangers alike offering words of comfort and sorrow as the community hosted a candlelight vigil in her honor.
“It’s important that our community comes together after this tragedy to recognize the loss of someone near and dear to her family and friends. There is no answer as to why this happened, which is even more reason we should ban together and show her loved ones that we care,” said the vigil organizer.
The gathering began at the downtown gazebo in Fulton as Neivel’s pastor, John Coleman of Crossroads Tabernacle led the group in prayer before the ceremony continued next to the Oswego River.
“This is a beautiful thing you did to set this up,” said Neivel’s father, William Neivel. “You wonder how you get through something like this, but this is what helps. It’s uplifting to get this support.”
The group took turns sharing kind words and memories of Neivel’s life.
“Tomorrow is never promised,” said Neivel’s aunt. “But Amber is here, in her kids. You mother was crazy about you kids,” she told Neivel’s 16-year-old daughter, Lexy Short and 13-year-old son, Dylan Short.
“Amber was going through a rough patch as she was struggling with some illnesses but she was still a sweet, loving person. She loved her kids more than she loved herself,” said Neivel’s sister, Leaha Smith.
Smith received custody of Neivel’s daughter and son two and a half years ago as a result of the illnesses Neivel was battling. The exchange in custody resulted in the children moving out of state with Smith and her family.
“I love my mom more than anything in the world,” Lexy shared with the group. “Out of all people, I’ve asked why her? She would be happy seeing all the people here and I know she’s in a better place now but I wish things happened differently, she didn’t have to go like that.”
Despite the distance, Neivel and her children kept in close contact and maintained a meaningful relationship.
“We were close,” Lexy said of her relationship with her mother. “We would talk on the phone often for three and a half hours at a time.”
She recalled her mother’s crazy laugh, her love for movies, and receiving cards with funny, loving messages on holidays and special occasions from her mother states away.
Neivel’s family remains hopeful that law enforcement will help provide them with closure if an ongoing investigation can reveal the nature of Neivel’s passing.
Neivel’s body was found in the Oswego River by Fulton resident, Andre Rose as he was taking his young children for a walk on Sunday (April 9) morning.
The Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the body as 39-year-old Amber Neivel from New Haven and ruled her death suspicious.
“I have a feeling someone did something to her, and that doesn’t sit right with me. I have faith in our law enforcement that they are taking their time to be able to give us closure,” Smith said.
Fulton Police Department has an ongoing investigation in the case and has asked for public assistance from anyone who may have seen or had contact with Neivel in the hours before her death by calling 315-598-2008.
Amber Neivel’s father, William, is coping with the fifth death of a family member within the past three and a half years including the death of his wife, Amber’s mother, last year. He often finds himself frustrated with the investigation progression as there is typically little information to reveal.
Though he has been told there have been calls from the public to the department, he is unaware if there are any leads or suspects at this time.
“I’m hoping once they get someplace, we can get more closure,” he said. “She was a good daughter, this is just a shock. You don’t wish this on your worst enemy.”
One of the blessings in this unforeseen tragedy, however, was that Andre Rose happened upon Neivel’s body in an act that William Neivel referred to as divine intervention.
“It was good to meet him. Had he not found her, we don’t where we would be right now,” William said.
Rose was glad to have met Neivel’s family as he had been overcome with emotion since finding her body.
“I don’t know how to deal with this. I’m sorry to be the one to have found her like this. I’m at a loss for words, I want to say just what you need to hear but I can’t put those words together,” he said to Neivel’s loved ones. “Just please know we are here for you.”
Pastor Coleman assured Rose his “footsteps were led by the Lord” and Neivel’s family thanked him for his response that alerted authorities.
Rose said he finally feels relief now that he has met Neivel’s family and even managed to make her sister laugh. “It’s like a weight is lifted, I can breath now but it’s still so unreal and really doesn’t sit right with me,” he said.
Emotions ran high as Neivel’s family lined the river with candles and threw roses into the water as the group joined together to sing “Amazing Grace.”
“This is overwhelming,” said Neivel’s sister, Leaha Smith. “I’m so thankful for the turnout so the children can see that their mom’s life mattered. People care, people care about them, and the support from the community, that strangers care even, that was the most important thing for me to see.”
Anyone interested in helping Neivel’s family lessen the expense of funeral costs, travel expenses, and to help provide for the children’s future can do so at the official Go Fund Me page set up by a family friend that has been confirmed by Smith.