The program for a funeral held in Lethbridge, Alta., Wednesday in memory of Tabitha Stepple, one of four people killed in a roadside murder-suicide, said the tragedy has affected her family "like a bad dream."
It was a private ceremony, but hundreds of people packed into the Evangelical Free Church to say goodbye to the 21-year-old who was described as enthusiastic and outgoing.
Stepple was remembered as a role model to her family, who dealt with life in an admirable way. She was described as living life to the fullest — loved to camp — and family was the most important part of her life.
Family was a big part of her funeral as her sister and two brothers gave the eulogy, music was supplied by her cousins and a message was delivered from her mother.
Ian Lawson, the lead pastor of Evangelical Free, met the family through the tragedy when they asked the church to look after the funeral. He was told by Stepple's family that she was known for her generosity.
"I don't think there are words to capture their current experience," he said. "It's an extremely difficult time for them."
Lawson said parents never expect their child to pass on before them, so "any young death is always tragic."
"This kind of tragedy is unimaginable," he said. "I have five children of my own. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child, particularly in this manner."
Lawson said the whole community of Lethbridge has been shaken by the death.
"Tabitha was a role model to us all, very mature for her age, dealt with life in an admirable way, wouldn’t show fear, and a mommy’s girl and daddy’s girl," an online obituary says.
Highway memorial started
Stepple was shot to death Dec. 15 near the town of Claresholm, Alta., by her ex-boyfriend, Derek Jensen, police said. Jensen also shot and killed Tanner Craswell, 22, and Mitch MacLean, 20, before killing himself.
Shayna Conway, a 21-year-old from P.E.I., was the lone survivor of the shooting, which took place along Highway 2 south of Calgary. She is expected to remain in hospital through Christmas recovering from gunshot wounds.
Flowers, teddy bears, a weathered baseball glove and a tin of chewing tobacco have been placed on the side of the highway where the four died.
Investigators have determined Jensen was searching for Stepple early Thursday along Highway 2 when he spotted her SUV stopped at a 7-Eleven store in Claresholm. Stepple and her three friends in the vehicle were making a quick pit-stop on their way from Lethbridge to the Calgary airport.
When they got back on the road, Jensen continued to follow the SUV for another 1.5 kilometres, then rammed it from behind. Conway was shot three times after getting out of the vehicle. Jensen then shot the three others who were inside the SUV before killing himself.
Funerals for MacLean and Craswell, friends from Prince Edward Island who played on the same baseball team, will follow later in the week. The pair were also remembered Monday with a memorial game of catch at their former Charlottetown high school.
MacLean's funeral will be at Winsloe United Church in Charlottetown on Thursday at 10 a.m. local time. Craswell's funeral is Friday at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, also in Charlottetown at 10 a.m.
A private service for the gunman is also happening this week.