Residents were still reeling in shock Monday after laying to rest a 6-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and killed.
Services were held at 11 a.m. Monday in the First Baptist Church, Vernal, for Veronica Fitzen, whose body was found Friday in the remote Little Brush Creek area approximately 25 miles north of Vernal.Her body, placed inside a pillowcase, was found after a youth led authorities to the site.
The youth was still being held in a detention center in Vernal.
Many mourners brought single flowers as they gathered Monday in the church service, which was conducted by the Rev. Herb Stoneman, who also addressed the funeral.
Other speakers included Bishop Lloyd Swain of the Vernal 2nd Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Preston McNutt, pastor of the Bethel Chapel. Burial was in Vernal City Cemetery.
The services brought together a broad cross section of the community. "The death of this child has affected everyone in the community and has caused people to lay aside petty differences that sometimes separate adults. It has caused a coming together of people and feelings of cooperation, " the Rev. Stoneman said.
"If there can be a positive effect from such a negative event" that is what is desired, he said.
After questioning the 16-year-old boy for two hours Friday, Police Chief Robert Downard said investigators found the child's body in the remote area 25 miles north of Vernal.
The girl, who was reported missing Aug. 7 by her mother and stepfather, was found wrapped inside a pillowcase, authorities said. She apparently had been strangled.
"I guess they (residents) feel bad for both sides," said Helen Stewart, a waitress at a cafe.
They feel bad for whomever killed the girl and what he will go through, and they feel sorry for the girl's family because they didn't have any choice in the matter, Stewart said.
The family had asked that residents bring only one flower to the funeral, since the little girl loved flowers, and one means the same as a dozen.
Residents expressed shock that such a crime could occur in their Uintah Basin community. Killings, they said, just don't happen here.
The crime is "kind of shocking for a little town like Vernal, U.S.A.," said Howard Wiseman, a disc jockey on radio station KUIN-FM.
"It's very shocking. It just seems like something you don't think happens in a place like this," said the Rev. Richard Asire, pastor of the Grace Baptist Church.
A memorial fund has been established for the girl at Deseret Federal Savings, and Wiseman said a fun-run is scheduled Tuesday that will help benefit Fitzen's family.