BOXHOLM - Hundreds gathered inside a middle school gymnasium Thursday to remember a 15-year-old Iowa girl whose body was found in a river after she had been kidnapped and gone missing.
Many children who went to school with Kathlynn Shepard attended the public memorial service, which drew about 750 people. Many wore purple, Kathlynn's favorite color.
Purple balloons and a dozen arrangements of purple, yellow and white flowers lined the stage behind those delivering eulogies at Southeast Webster-Grand Middle School in Boxholm, about 60 miles north of Des Moines.
Michael Shepard speaks during a public memorial service for his daughter 15-year-old Kathlynn, Thursday, in Boxholm.
A Minnesota Vikings jersey sent and signed by running back Adrian Peterson adorned the pulpit. The Vikings was Kathlynn's favorite team.
"We are celebrating a life that has been well lived," said the Rev. Ron Munson, pastor of Gospel Lighthouse Church in Kansas City, Mo. "Just remember the good times. Remember how she made you laugh, how she was there when you needed her, or just at a time when things weren't going so well and she would show up and lighten the day."
Authorities said Kathlynn and a younger friend were coerced into a pickup on May 20 in Dayton by registered sex offender Michael Klunder. He hanged himself after the younger girl escaped.
Searchers looked for Kathlynn for two weeks when it was unclear what had happened to her. Her body was found June 7 in the Des Moines River near Boone. Authorities said she had been killed.
Her father, Michael Shepard, told a story during the public memorial service about how he had a difficult time explaining to Kathlynn why he had to be deployed to Iraq twice. He said when he told her the children of Iraq don't have the same freedom to ride bicycles or play like her, she said: "Dad, you better go help them."