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Community Comes Together One Last Time For Kelli O’Laughlin

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Kelli O'Laughlin (Courtesy: O'Laughlin Family)

Kelli O’Laughlin (Courtesy: O’Laughlin Family)

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WESTERN SPRINGS, Ill. (CBS) — Family and friends paid their final respects to 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin Friday, as a suspect appeared in court on charges that he stabbed her to death in her Indian Head Park home.

As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, fellow students lined the streets along the mile-long procession from Hallowell & James Funeral Home, at 1025 W. 55th St. in Countryside, to St. John of the Cross Church, at 5005 Wolf Rd. in Western Springs.

It was a final opportunity for the community to come together once again, in an emotional and heartfelt gathering.

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Students from Highlands Middle School in LaGrange brought white balloons to release as Kelli’s hearse passed by, and many others followed their example.

Hundreds of children and adults lined the procession route, including many teenagers who attended middle school or Lyons Township High School with Kelli. The impact of her death was visible throughout the area, with signs of remembrance and white ribbons just about everywhere.

But those who knew Kelli were affected most deeply.

“Last year, I saw her every day at my school, and just to know that someone that young passed away from such a terrible death – it’s really sad,” said Kelli’s friend, Emily Titzer.

“It’s just an awful thing, and I have kids, and it was so close to home, and she went to our school,” said Emily’s mother, Diane Titzer. “I just wanted to show our respects.”

Many who lined the procession would not fit into the church, but were glad to participate. Many parents said despite the tragedy, it is actually a happy day because a suspect has been charged with Kelli’s murder.

Everywhere were signs of remembrance. Everywhere were messages of support, from the houses of faith to fast-food restaurants.

Kelli’s death has “rocked our community and now we have to figure out how to get thru it together,” parent Kim Swanson said.

At the funeral Mass, Father David Dowdle said there are no words to make sense of the absurd.

Kelli’s parents thanked the community for all the support they received during this difficult time.

In addition to prayers and readings, they celebrated Kelli’s life with music. Her family chose the song “For Good,” from the musical “Wicked,” which features lyrics about how people can change each other’s lives.

Kelli’s brother, David Douglas, recalled his sister’s “contagious joy” and how she was a bright spot for their entire family. He also said the best way to honor his sister’s legacy is simply by loving one another.

Meanwhile, John Wilson Jr., 38, awaits his initial court appearance after being charged with Kelli’s murder. Authorities say Wilson was burglarizing Kelli’s family’s house on Thursday Oct. 27, when Kelli came in and surprised him, prompting him to attack her and stab her to death.

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