Memorial held for murdered student

May 17, 2008 1:51:15 PM PDT
Family and friends of Ira Yarmolenko remembered her Saturday in a celebration of life.

The murdered UNC-Charlotte student grew up in Chapel Hill. Dozens of people filled her high school auditorium for a memorial.

With heavy hearts, they gathered at Chapel Hill High in memory of Yarmolenko, who was killed less than two weeks ago.

"She was just a beautiful person," friend Courtney Lyon said.

From her music and poetry to early days in the Ukraine and happier times in Chapel Hill, the crowd watched videos of the slain student.

Pictures told the story of a 20-year-old who always had a smile.

"My sister lived a very fulfilling and by all accounts great life," her brother Pavel Yarmolenko said.

Childhood friends shared stories and letters Yarmolenko had written.

Friend Jennifer Long read, "Lets become eccentric together the kind of old ladies who take long walks. And if anyone asks how long we've been friends, we'll say forever."

But the dream of forever would mean May 5.

Yarmolenko's body was found on the banks of the Catawba River near Charlotte where she was a student at UNC.

Officials say she died of asphyxiation. While police search for her killer, they are hoping surveillance video from a Goodwill store in Mount Holly will lead to clues.

She is captured on the tape less than three hours before her body was discovered.

But at the memorial, the focus was on celebrating her life.

"This is not a time for negative thoughts at all," Pavel said.

Yarmolenko graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 2006. From the crowd at the memorial, it's easy to see she had a huge impact at the school. But people agree she also impacted the entire community.


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