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Juneau offers thoughts, prayers to Howard family at candlelight vigil

Posted: February 9, 2013 - 8:55pm  |  Updated: February 10, 2013 - 1:09am
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Aja Marks, 9, left, Brandon Chilton, 13, Leona Demmert, 8, and Lilliana Demmert, 10, attend a candlelight vigil in honor of Mackenzie Howard at the Sealaska Plaza on Friday. Howard's body was found inside a Kake church on Tuesday evening, the apparent victim of a homicide.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Aja Marks, 9, left, Brandon Chilton, 13, Leona Demmert, 8, and Lilliana Demmert, 10, attend a candlelight vigil in honor of Mackenzie Howard at the Sealaska Plaza on Friday. Howard's body was found inside a Kake church on Tuesday evening, the apparent victim of a homicide.

People gathered in Juneau’s Sealaska Plaza Friday evening to light candles and pray for Mackenzie Howard, a 13-year-old girl from Kake who is the victim of an apparent homicide.

The candlelight vigil was held to show support to a Southeast community and family in their time of crisis, the organizers said.

“There are no words,” Paul Marks said before leading the crowd in prayer. “They’re hard to find.”

Law enforcement officials have not yet released information to the public on how Howard died, citing an ongoing investigation. Howard’s body was found Tuesday evening in the arctic entryway of Kake Memorial Presbyterian Church.

On Friday, organizers Nicole Hallingstad and Dorothy Shockley thanked the crowd for coming to show support for Howard’s family.

Shockley said she was in Kake on Tuesday for the funeral of Clarence Jackson, a Sealaska Board Member who died late last month.

“Clarence had lived a long life, but this little child,” Shockley said. “This is just a tragedy.”

Nancy Barnes led the crowd in singing the Tlingit Mourning Song; Vicki Soboleff led the Haida Prayer Song. Paul Marks also gave a closing prayer.

Many in the crowd, such as Marie Beierly and her brother Thomas, know the Howard family, especially through the Gold Medal basketball tournament.

“She was a very sweet girl, very sweet,” Marie said.

Others that showed up said they have close ties to Kake and just wanted to show they care.

“There was no way I was staying at home when I could be here holding a candle for her,” said Norwal Nelson, a commercial fisherman.

“We’re all here, we’ll be here for anything that they need,” said Allison Rhymer, who attended the vigil with her family.

Father Ed Penisten, with the Catholic Diocese of Juneau, was one of those in the crowd, and he said he offered Mass on Friday for the people of Kake.

“For her family, just know that the love and the prayers of many people throughout Alaska are with them at this time,” he said. “We’re all heart-sick.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

Editor’s Note: Organizers of the vigil said a Wells Fargo checking account has been set up to accept contributions for the Howard family. Donations can be made directly at Wells Fargo into Account #5274579043.

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