Pomerado News Group
A crowd of about 5,000 gathered Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil outside St. Michael's Catholic Church in Poway to mourn the death of Poway High School student Chelsea King.
A few days earlier, the event was planned as one of hope that the 17-year-old, who was abducted Feb. 25, would be found alive and returned to her family.
Hope turned to grief Tuesday afternoon when authorities found a body believed to be King in a shallow grave at the shoreline of Lake Hodges near Rancho Bernardo Community Park.
During the vigil, candlelight flickered and silence engulfed the huge crowd with the occasional sounds of weeping, while adults and teens alike let tears slide down their cheeks.
At one point, coyotes off in the distance could be heard howling.
The mood was both respectful and somber as Msgr. Neil Dolan and youth minister Ben Lee spoke about King.
Dolan told mourners "to lament and feel the pain," as the initial stage of grief began.
"Bless us as we go forward tonight," Dolan said. "Bless Chelsea, may she remain in your peace."
Chelsea's parents, Brent and Kelly King, held each other and thanked everyone who helped with the "Bring Chelsea Home" search and efforts during the week.
"My nickname for her was 'my angel,' said her dad. "Now she's my angel forever."
Some in the crowd, such as longtime Powegian Lori Simon, expressed anger at the current laws regarding sexual predators.
"I'll fight to get laws changed," she said.
After a few friends spoke about missing King, her quirky sense of humor and positive attitude, the crowd slowly made its way in silence to Pomerado Road from St. Michael's parking lot and walked to Twin Peaks Road, then back to the church.
Many of the teens said they would wear purple at school on Wednesday, a sign of loyalty, said one Poway High student.
Adam Seagle, a 2009 PHS alum and Palomar College student, said the turnout to support the Kings and remember Chelsea was "what our community does."
"We helped one another during the fires and we've come together again for Chelsea and her parents," Seagle said.
Earlier in the week, students handed out blue ribbons to remind others of King's blue eyes, said peer counseling adviser Traci Barker-Ball.
That same day, students received flexible blue bracelets with the message, "Don't run alone," as a reminder to travel in pairs when running on community trails, Barker-Ball said.