Family, friends gather to remember suburban teen

November 2, 2011 (COUNTRYSIDE, Ill.)

The 14-year-old was found stabbed to death in her home last Thursday.

As O'Laughlin's family and friends gathered to remember her, a task force of suburban law enforcement met earlier in the day Wednesday about the investigation.

Visitation began at 4 p.m. Wednesday and was expected to run until 9 p.m. at the Hallowell and James Funeral Home in Countryside. Another visitation is scheduled for Thursday from 4 until 9, and while police are working around the clock on this case, for the first time Wednesday O'Laughlin's father released a statement on behalf of his family.

As teenagers lined up outside the funeral home Wednesday afternoon, a close friend of the O'Laughlin family remembered Kelli as a girl obsessed with tennis, who couldn't wait to play on the freshman sophomore team in high school, even if it meant play with a new set of braces.

"She had these big, bright sparkly eyes. She had a relatively new set of braces, which she wasn't very happy about, and she found solace in other high school kids who were going through same situation," said family friend Richard Roderick. "It's an awkward age, but she just lit up a room when she came in. She was just a very happy person."

Six days ago, the Lyons Township freshman was found stabbed to death inside her home. Wednesday, the O'Laughlin residence remains a crime scene.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and a few investigators checked out the backyard one more time before heading to the police station where South Suburban Crime Task Force members were meeting.

Dozens of police officers are devoted to the case, which gives comfort to residents of the southwest suburban town.

"I feel they are doing what they can with what they have to work with. There's no witnesses or nothing, unfortunately...I think they do a wonderful job," said resident Wayne Dubin.

Police are still operating under the theory that Kelli returned home from school and interrupted a burglary.

Because Indian Head Park has had a rash of burglaries during the past few months, residents are convinced the crime was random, and many have now changed the way the live.

"They did send out a little flyer saying, absolutely leave your lights on when you're not home, leave your TV on...put in bars, yes, deadbolts your doors," said resident Mollie Murphy.

Meantime, the O'Laughlin's friend Richard Roderick is hopeful the case at some point will come to an end.

"We just hope and pray for a logical conclusion, and that at some point the family is able to find some peace," said Roderick.

On behalf of his wife Brenda and their three children, John O'Laughlin released the following statement on Wednesday:

"We are truly overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support we have received from the community and all those who knew and loved Kelli. We are so grateful to everyone who has offered their support and condolences in this difficult time."

The O'Laughlins also announced that they have established a scholarship fund in Kelli's name. It is being facilitated through the Chicago Community Foundation.

Kelli O'Laughlin's funeral is scheduled for Friday.

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