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PARIS, Ky.  – It is a somber anniversary of a brutal crime. Friday will mark 10 years since Wesley Mullins was sexually assaulted, murdered and hidden in a garage on his grandfather’s property. He was six years old.

But Wesley’s death also sparked a change, as folks impacted by his loss work to make sure something like that never happens again.

“It’s something that’s so deep,” said Tim Gray, “there’s no doubt I’ll take it to my grave with me.”

Tim Gray was chief of police when Wesley was murdered. Gray says what he and his fellow investigators saw that day seared itself in their minds, especially since many of them were parents themselves.

“I could see my son laying there in pajamas and dirty little feet,” Gray said. “I can’t even say it was an ‘eye-opener.’ It was a punch to the gut.”

The garage where Wesley was found is now gone, replaced with a memorial garden and Wesley’s Place, a group of volunteers that support agencies that work in child abuse prevention and awareness.

“If we keep awareness up, and people know that we care about our kids in this community, maybe something like this won’t happen again,” Gray said.

Wesley at the time was less than a month away from his seventh birthday. Now he would be in high school – nearly 17 years old – the same age as Gray’s stepson.

“I’ve watched this boy grow up thinking about Wesley,” Gray said. “Your first job, your first car, your senior year of high school. It’s just hard to believe.”

Gray says thoughts like that continue to spur on their mission, reminding them why it is so important, even a decade later, to keep young Wesley’s memory alive.

“It can happen anywhere,” he said. “Just because you’re in a small town that you feel is kind of a safe, Mayberry-type town, doesn’t mean there’s not something like this that can happen. We’re proof of that.”

The man convicted of abusing and killing Wesley Mullins, Lewis “Buck” Ballard, is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A celebration of Wesley’s life is scheduled for 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday, September 2 (the day after Wesley’s birthday) at Wesley’s Place on South Main Street in Paris. Gray said they will have food, activities and fun for kids, including a petting zoo. They also will have a balloon release. He said it is designed to be a fun day instead of a sad day.