ATHENS, Ga. - They filed into an Athens church Friday evening to pay their respects. Some knew Alexis Janae Crawford and her family. Others were simply touched by her story.
"As an Athenian who prayed for her safe return, I'm now praying for her family's continued strength and for our community," Terris Thomas told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Thomas, an assistant pastor at Timothy Baptist Church, said she and one of Crawford's relatives are members of the same sorority. But as a mother of a 25-year-old daughter, Thomas said Crawford's death hit too close to home.
"You don't send your child off to college to be murdered," she said.
Yet Atlanta investigators believe that is what happened to 21-year-old Crawford, who was a senior at Clark Atlanta University. She was reported missing on Nov. 1, and after a weeklong search, Crawford's body was found in a DeKalb County park. Her roommate and the roommate's boyfriend are now accused of killing her.
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On a cold and wet Friday night, the focus was on remembering a young woman known for her warm, sweet spirit. Inside Hill Chapel Baptist Church, Crawford's casket was adorned with dozens of white roses. Large arrangements of more white roses stood on each side of her, along with peace lilies and other flowers.
"She looks absolutely beautiful," one mourner said.
Some sat quietly in the sanctuary while others filed by the casket, offering quiet prayers.
Outside the church, Bertha Henderson said she had gone to Clarke Central High School with Crawford's mother and aunt. Crawford graduated from the same school in 2016.
After attending the visitation, Henderson said she brought food for the family from the restaurant she owns, Food for the Soul. She said she's still struggling to make sense of Crawford's death.
"Unbelievable," Henderson said. "Who in the world would think this could happen? You're not safe anywhere."
Miracle Coleman was friends with one of Crawford's sisters. Friday night, she attended the visitation with her mother, Teresa.
"It's just heartbreaking. Shocking," Miracle Coleman said.
Crawford's death is a reminder, the women said, to remain vigilant about safety. Teresa Coleman said for many years, she and her daughter have shared each other's locations on their iPhones. When Miracle attended Georgia Gwinnett College, her mother also tracked her location on her phone.
Miracle now says she and her closest friends check on each other frequently, such as when someone has a date with someone new.
"Just in case," Miracle said.
On Saturday, family and friends gather again, this time for Crawford's funeral. She lied in repose from 10 a.m. until her noon funeral at Cornerstone Church, 4680 Lexington Road in Athens. Some of her classmates will travel by bus from Clark Atlanta to attend the funeral.
In addition to her parents, Crawford is survived by nine siblings, according to the Rev. Markel Hutchins, who is serving as the family's spokesperson. Hutchins said the Crawford family is devastated, but grateful for the outpouring of support.
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