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AP

Mourners pack church for little girl's funeral

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FREDERICKTOWN, Mo. (AP) - Cassidy Senter's slaying should serve as a reminder of how people can help each other during a crisis, the girl's aunt said at her funeral Sunday.

"In the past week, Cassidy won the hearts of thousands across America," Darla Miles told the 400 people packed into Praise Temple Church. "They struggled hard to save her, proving to us all that despite the evil done, people in our country still choose to pull together and help us realize people still do care."

Ten-year-old Cassidy disappeared Dec. 1 while walking from her suburban St. Louis home to a friend's house a few blocks away. Her battered body was found Thursday in a St. Louis alley.

A bulletin board inside the tiny country church about 100 miles south of St. Louis showed Cassie, as she was called, eating her first piece of birthday cake, licking an ice cream cone, swimming with her family and dressing up for Halloween.

More than a dozen bouquets of pink flowers - pink was Cassidy's favorite color - adorned the church.

About 100 pink and white balloons were released as the casket was prepared to be lowered into the ground.

Cassidy's mother, Rhonda Senter, wore a pink corsage and a pink ribbon. She pledged to wear the ribbon until her daughter's killer is caught.

The girl's father, Jimmie Ray Senter, left the church distraught a few minutes into the service. He stood in the parking lot for most of the funeral, which lasted more than an hour.

Cassie was the second girl in several weeks to be abducted in the St. Louis area. Angie Marie Housman, 9, was kidnapped Nov. 18 after getting off a school bus near her home. Her body was found nine days later at a wildlife refuge.

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