"To all that visit here: live, love, and laugh during your lives and never take for granted the time we have together," the end of the tribute reads.

Hit and run victim

Annie, who was called "Momma Annie" by other family members because of the care she showed to her younger sisters and other youngsters, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital, hours after she was hit while crossing the street with her parents and sisters.

They were crossing at Lombard Street and Hopkins Place after leaving a performance by the Ringling Bros. Circus at 1st Mariner Arena.

A pickup truck driven by Guillermo Diaz-Lopez of Halethorpe came through the intersection and struck Annie. Diaz-Lopez, who was later determined to be driving intoxicated, fled the scene despite efforts of bystanders to stop him.

Police picked up Diaz-Lopez a short time later and arrested him.

"It kills me enough, that my wife and I had to experience it, but for her sisters to experience that as well . . . ," Cumpston said, recalling the tragedy.

Diaz-Lopez pleaded guilty in October 2003 in Baltimore Circuit Court to vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time.

Diaz-Lopez, a native of Mexico who was in the United States illegally, expressed his sorrow to the Cumpstons in court.

"I want to tell the family that from my heart I am very sorry. ... From my humble, poor heart, I beg your forgiveness," The Sun quoted him as saying through an interpreter.

Diaz-Lopez, now 33, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but he was eligible for early release.

Danielle Lueking, communications manger with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said he was released from the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup in May 2008, on "mandatory supervision."

Lueking said mandatory supervision is granted to an inmate after building up a certain number of credits for good behavior, being involved in prison programs or having a job while incarcerated.

The inmate is typically supervised by the Division of Parole and Probation, but in Diaz Lopez's case, he was turned over to federal immigration officials.

'How is that Justice?'

Speaking on Wednesday, Cumpston expressed no forgiveness for Diaz-Lopez.

"His only penance is five years, how is that justice?" he asked. "I don't understand."

Cumpston and his family remain focused on the present and the future, however, and ensuring the community remembers a little girl known as "Momma Annie" for her desire to care for younger children.

"As young as she was, she just took care of them," her father said. "She just had the kindest heart."

Scholarship funds have been established in Annie's name at St. Margaret and the John Carroll School in Bel Air.

Cumpston also supports the Ryan Foundation of Baltimore, which raises money to help children with leukemia and their families. He is a member of the Gunpowder Golf Association, which raises thousands of dollars for the foundation each year.

Cumpston always has Annie with him, through a tiny gold angel pin he wears on his collar so "she's always on my shoulder," and a ring which holds a ponytail holder Annie was wearing the day of the accident.

He took the ponytail holder from her hair before leaving the hospital and wore it around his finger until the ring was made.

"I just wanted something from her that I could have with me," he said.

Exit Preferred Realty, which has offices in Harford County and elsewhere in the Baltimore area, is sponsoring a children's Easter egg hunt March 30 as a fundraiser for the playground. The egg hunt will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cumpston said the playground shows how a community can come together in difficult times.

"I feel blessed, in a sense, that she was that special," he said of Annie.