STOCKTON -- She had a bright smile and a whole life ahead of her.
"She was a happy girl, she was just everywhere, but she was really happy," said the victim's aunt, Maritza Magallanes.
But little Melanie's loved ones are in mourning after the 3-year-old was shot and killed while riding in a car with her mother and grandmother in south Stockton.
Magallanes is overcome with sadness.
"It's sad, her mom just called me yesterday to take care of her today," said Magallanes.
Instead, on Monday the entire intersection of Commerce and Jackson streets was wrapped in crime scene tape and littered with at least 30 evidence markers.
Police are determined to find whoever is responsible for killing an innocent child and leaving a neighborhood in shock.
"I was sitting there watching TV with everybody, and we just hear 'pow, pow, pow' like nine times, and I thought it was like right here, right here in front of my house!" said Isabel Cruz.
Cruz lives on Commerce Street.
She says after hearing shots fired she saw a car speed by moments later. Then she says she came out to find her car windshield shattered and a bullet nearby.
"It was this big, so we gave it to the police, they came and took pictures," Cruz said.
Farther up the street, a house was covered in bullet holes and a van's windshield was pierced by a bullet.
Stockton police say the 3-year-old was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the gunman opened fire.
"What I can tell you, what happened last night was a senseless act of violence committed by cowards with guns," said Joe Silva, Stockton police spokesperson.
As investigators desperately search for whoever fired the shots that killed this child, a family is grieving the loss of the innocent girl who barely had a chance to live.
"She will always be in our heart no matter what," said Magallanes.
Stockton police are searching for a vehicle of interest: either a black Chevy Monte Carlo with tinted windows or a black or dark-colored Chevy Camaro.
Anyone with more information is asked to call the Stockton Police Department at
(209) 937-8377 or Crime Stoppers at (209)946-0600.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to cover the cost of Melanie's funeral.