WENATCHEE, Wash. - It was a celebration of love and life Thursday for Mackenzie Cowell, a Wenatchee teen found murdered 11 days ago.
At a memorial service for Cowell, family and friends released hundreds of pink and purple balloons into the sky as they struggled to let their loved one go.
"She was a beautiful, wonderful person," said Becky Burt, a friend from the beauty school they both attended. "She always made me smile."
Mackenzie disappeared on Feb. 9 after leaving her beauty school. Her body was found five days later along the Columbia River. Her killer remains on the loose. Authorities say, at this point, they have no suspects.
Mackenzie was remembered as a bright, energetic girl who endured heartless teasing through much of her adolescence because of an underbite. She persevered, however, eventually becoming prom queen. But there is still so much left that she will never do.
"There will never be a walk down the aisle, a cutting of a cake ... the pain of labor," said Rev. Sandy Brown. "We are here today because somebody stole her life. But we are also here because no one can steal our memories of her."
Nearly 2,000 people attended the service at Wenatchee's Town Toyota Center. Mackenzie's brother, Trevor Cowell, made the family's first public statement since her disappearance and murder.
"It's incredible. It meant the world to me because we all loved her. And that's what this all shows is how much everybody loves her," said Trevor.
One of Mackenzie's first real loves was dance. She became part of the Wenatchee High School dance team. Her teammates performed in her honor at the memorial service.
"Even though she is gone, I know she'll be dancing with us in heaven," said Hanah Rasmussen, Mackenzie's best friend.
Two funds have been established. To help the family pay for funeral expenses, people can contribute to the Mackenzie Cowell Family Fund at Wells Fargo branches. To contribute to a reward fund, donations can be made to the Mackenzie Cowell Benefit Trust at Bank of America branches. The reward fund currently stands at $5,800.