ROSWELL, Ga. - Friends and family gathered Wednesday to say goodbye to a Johns Creek teenager found dead near a Roswell apartment pool last week.
Mercedes Chico-Sims' body was found at the Atlantic Newton apartments last week after the 17-year-old was reported missing by family members.
The medical examiner still hasn't released her cause of death. Elijah Foster, 18, an acquaintance of Chico-Sims, was arrested on suspicion of concealing her death.
Channel 2's Mike Petchenik was the first reporter on the scene when Chico-Sims' body was found and has been covering the case ever since.
Chico-Sims' family invited Petchenik to her funeral Wednesday, where friends and mentors said she had an incredible impact on them.
Dozens of people packed the North Atlanta Church of Christ in Dunwoody. Chico-Sims' youth ministers, Justin Bagwell and Kendra Greenwald said she was a joy to have around.
"She really wanted to make much of the people who do a lot for her," Greenwald said.
Bagwell and Greenwald remembered the time Chico-Sims insisted on writing a thank you note to the man who catered food to a church event.
"She got all the students to sign this card that she made and presented it to him at our last session," Greenwald said.
Greenwald said everyone at the church is hurting.
"We're going to miss her deeply," Bagwell said. "Her influence mattered in the student ministry ... She had so much joy."
Chico-Sims' best friends at church, Camila Sanchez and Allie Brasher, said her enthusiasm for life was contagious.
"I just remember her always smiling, no matter what," Brasher said. "She was always someone I could laugh with and tell anything to."
The girls were all part of the youth ministry at the church.
"She never took any moment for granted," Sanchez said. "She made the most out of everything."
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Erica Eby is a volunteer mentor who worked with Chico-Sims and her friends.
"Mercedes lit up every room she walked into," Eby said.
Eby said she learned a lot just from watching the teen interact with others.
"A lot of people walk into a room, and the attention is on them and that's about it," Eby said. "With Mercedes, she lit up the room and shared that light with others."
At Chico-Sims' funeral service, head pastor Don McLaughlin preached a message that life happens and it's what you make of it and how you love one another that matters.
"I've been here a long time, and our church is not a stranger to hard times and to tragedy, and we walk together no matter what's happening," McLaughlin said.
Crowell Brothers Funeral Home in Norcross saw Chico-Sims' story on Channel 2 Action News and offered to cover all of the family's funeral expenses.
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