POLITICS

Candlelight vigil held for 16-year-old Regina girl murdered last week

01/19/2015 09:23 EST | Updated 03/21/2015 05:59 EDT
REGINA - Members of a Regina community shaken by a teen homicide last week gathered on Monday to remember a girl described as having a kind soul.

More than 100 people gathered at the high school where the 16-year-old was a student. Community members came together in the early evening, around the same time when police were called to the girl's home on Jan. 12.

Police said they received a call about "an injured, possibly deceased person" inside a home. The girl was pronounced dead by paramedics.

Two teenage boys, who are also both 16, were charged with first-degree murder in her death. The Youth Criminal Justice Act prevents identifying the two accused.

The vigil began with a prayer for the girl's family. Her parents and two step-parents then led a walk from the high school to the house where she was found dead.

People released purple star-shaped balloons into the sky, and placed candles and toy bears on the snowy lawn of the home. Purple had been the girl's favourite colour.

Through tears, her mother told those at the vigil the family is grateful for the community's support.

"Thank you for coming for my daughter," she said. "I know she touched all of you and we'll all miss her."

In an obituary published on the weekend, the girl was described as someone who was "growing into a bright, beautiful, confident young woman."

Vigil organizer Shandy Maertens described the girl as quiet and friendly, adding that she never bothered anyone. Maertens said the vigil was heart-breaking, but also heart-warming.

"To watch them have to come back to the house is pretty hard, but it's also a sense of relief that they know they have so much support now," she said, adding that her own children attended the same school.

She added that some people in the community were frightened by the homicide, which is why vigil participants made a point of walking the same route the girl took home.

"It hit close to home ... it's been really hard on everyone," Maertens said. "People do not need to be scared of walking."

Family friend Walter Chester said the act of coming together is important for the community as a whole.

"You don't even have to know the person to come out to something like this," he said. "It's not just the loss of a child — it's a loss of part of you, like your soul."

Tionna Ackerman said the girl was a good friend and will be missed.

"No matter what kind of mood she was in, she would drop anything and be there for you ... if she knew you were in trouble."

A funeral is set for Wednesday.

-- With files from CKRM