Funeral plans set as students mourn murdered teen

November 1, 2011 6:59:03 AM PDT
Lyons Township High School students returned to classes Monday as funeral arrangements were set for a classmate who was stabbed to death last week.

Indian Head Park resident Kelli O'Laughlin, 14, was killed during an apparent burglary inside her home.

Instead of Halloween decorations, neighbor Pat Seter put up white bows around her block to remember O'Laughlin.

"My granddaughter was almost four years younger than she was, she still would take the time to spend some time with her," said Seter.

There is a $50,000-plus reward to find the person responsible. It's multiplying. On Monday, O'Laughlin's tennis club in Countryside, Score Tennis and Fitness, announced it will hold a round robin tournament Friday, November 11, to raise more money.

"She was the type of player that was more important to us, that has fun with the game, tries hard and is the girl that really likes the game of tennis," said Carey Powell, Score Tennis and Fitness.

Local police and the South Suburban Crimes Task Force released pictures of limited-edition coins identical to the ones they believe were stolen during the burglary.

Neighbors and community members remained unsettled.

"Even this morning, my wife was looking out the window, you know, in a way of concern, and she said, 'Are the doors locked?' And I said yes, and we put our security system on in the evening," said resident Dennis Petrushkevich.

Investigators were reportedly questioning a man being held on several burglaries in the area; he is not thought to be a prime suspect.

"She was very unique. I just think that it's a big loss to our school, and it is just a really bad thing," said Lyons Twp. student Kevin Bartman.

The mood was somber Monday as her classmates went back to school for the first time since her death. O'Laughlin was murdered as she returned from school Thursday. Many students wore black to remember her.

"It is just a tragedy. If this is a way to remember her, then so be it," said student John Balch.

School administrators released a statement Monday, which read:

"As you can imagine, the effects of the recent tragedy are being felt throughout the building by both faculty and staff. Counselors and social workers will be available all day and all week and beyond as needed. We are working diligently to provide students with an outlet to express their sadness and grief and in accordance with the wishes of the O'Laughlin family."

"It is pretty depressing," student Ross Leavitt said. "All of the students are being very supportive."

Crime scene tape was still in place Monday around O'Laughlin's home on Keokuk Road, and a memorial continued to grow at the school's south campus.

Police have released a sketch of a man who was seen in the area near her home around the same time O'Laughlin was murdered.

Authorities say they hope a reward will prompt someone to come forward with information about the suspect or suspects.

"There are leads coming in, and we're following them up," said Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo, who added that it was hard to say whether any of them were promising without more information.

On Friday night, O'Laughlin's classmates and friends held a candlelight prayer vigil for her outside Lyons Township High School.

"She was just awesome. She was nice to everybody. She helps people, includes everybody. She is a first-class person," friend Mike Yelovich said.

"It's so shocking. You don't expect anyone that young to be taken from you in such a horrible way," said Valerie Cottrill, O'Laughlin's former daycare teacher.

Funeral arrangements for O'Laughlin have been finalized. Visitation is Wednesday and Thursday at Hallowell and James Funeral Home in Countryside from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. each day. Her funeral will be held Friday at 9:45 a.m. at St. John of the Cross Church in Western Springs.


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