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April Millsap, 14, of Armada, Michigan, was murdered on Thursday, July 24, 2014, while she was out walking her dog on a trail near her home. / Detroit Free Press

ARMADA, Mich. -- Nearly three months ago, April Millsap was confirmed in St. Mary Mystical Rose Catholic Church here.

On Friday, more than 200 relatives, friends and grieving area residents filed into the church to mourn her death.

Mourners - many wearing pink - quietly entered and left the red brick church more than a week after the 14-year-old was murdered by an unknown killer.

Pink ribbons were tied to trees and poles at the church and along trees, fences, poles and signs for miles on the way to the quaint northern Macomb County village.

April's dog, Penny, led joggers to her body in a ditch near the Macomb Orchard Trail on July 24. Authorities said her death is a homicide but have not said how she died. They said there were no gunshot or stab wounds.

Mass for April, who was to enter her freshman year at Armada High School, was celebrated by three officiants and lasted more than an hour.

A memory card included a picture of April smiling and friends remembered her as a loving girl who adored animals, reading, writing poetry and short stories and who was active in her church youth group.

No one in the Szalka family knew April personally, but they went to the funeral because she was "somebody's daughter, somebody's friend," said Brenda Szalka, who grew up in Armada and moved back to the community to raise her children.

Brenda Szalka wore a pink shirt and sweater, and she and her husband, Ron Szalka, wore pink bows pinned to their shirts. They came with their son, Carson, 8, and daughter Acadia, 10, to "show our support and start the recovery process for our community."

Brenda Szalka said the mass was "absolutely beautiful." The hardest part, she said, was seeing April's mother and hearing the song Butterfly Kisses sung. She said the song by Bob Carlisle is normally heard at weddings and noted that April will never have that special day.

Ron Szalka said "on behalf of the community, we are dumbfounded by the violence." Like others, the Szalkas said they continue to use the trail and will not live in fear.

Two men carrying candles and another carrying a crucifix walked down about a half-dozen steps out of the church leading the procession after the service. Numerous pallbearers carried a brown casket and loaded it into the back of an awaiting black hearse.

April's tearful mother was consoled and hugged by many people. Other mourners - including many teenagers - hugged each other and wiped away tears.

The scene in Armada was less active Friday than Thursday, when police and FBI agents investigating April's death stopped vehicles entering and leaving the small village in hopes of finding information pertinent to the case.

Authorities are seeking tips about a male riding a motorcycle on the trail and a composite sketch of a male that was released Sunday.

On Wednesday, they searched a home in St. Clair County and arrested two people on drug charges, Michigan State Police said. No arrests or charges have been filed in April's murder and no suspects are in custody.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Funeral mourners remember slain Michigan teen

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