Grace Lutheran Church in Hallock, Minn., seats 500, but twice that many attended the funeral of Julie Holmquist Aug. 31.
The murder of the bright and energetic 16-year-old sent shock waves through her idyllic rural town 20 miles from the Canadian border.
"She was a young woman of courage m— resolute, determined and always with a smile," Ken Losch said at her funeral, which Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson attended. Losch is pastor of Grace and nearby Red River Lutheran, where Holmquist was the youngest member of the choir.
Holmquist was last seen in-line skating on a country road on July 29. Three weeks later a hunter found her body in a shallow pond 13 miles from Hallock. Authorities said she had been murdered, but had made no arrests by early September.
Losch and other clergy in Kittson County were working to bring healing to this rural area unaccustomed to violent crime.
"The whole county only has 5,000 residents," said Carl Seamon, pastor of Maria Lutheran Church in Kennedy, 10 miles from Hallock. Clergy are meeting regularly with counselors and school and community leaders.
"Our concerns, of course, are especially with the youth," said Seamon, whose teenage son was a classmate of Holmquist. Even more than their parents, the county's youth may feel afraid and vulnerable.
"The hardest part of this whole ordeal is the loss of innocence," Losch said. "There's a lot of fear up here, and somehow we've got work through that."
© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers