She made the impossible catch and everyone silently turned in amazement to Rachel Carver.
“There, with nobody around her, was this little girl with red hair,” said Dean Sprague, recalling Rachel’s catch during a recent church kickball game. “In front of all the people she really wanted to impress, she got to be a hero.”
In life as in death, Rachel Carver inspired people.
Nearly a thousand people turned out for two separate services Tuesday in honor of Rachel’s life.
The 9-year-old was killed last Wednesday and her body dumped in Riverside State Park. Her uncle, Jason Wickenhagen - previously convicted of a sex crime - was arrested and charged with her murder.
Rachel had lived with her Uncle Jason and Aunt Rene since October. They reported her missing when she didn’t return from Ridgeview Elementary School last Wednesday. She never showed up for what would have been her last day of third grade. Hundreds of people throughout the city searched for her in vain that day.
Thursday, her body was found and her uncle told police that he killed her. Since then, he has said that others were involved and he did not kill her.
Rachel was abused for most of her young life, court records show.
Sprague, who led Rachel and other Faith Bible Church youth in games, fought back tears as he remembered the girl he only met in the last several months.
“I didn’t know the dragons she fought,” he said. “Everything she did she always had a smile on her face.”
Sprague and other speakers described Rachel as a dynamo at memorizing Bible verses, a girl who loved to turn cartwheels and a fighter who always gave 100 percent.
About 300 people attended a service Tuesday afternoon for family and friends at North Central High School. Rachel’s father, mother, 10-year-old sister Danielle and Aunt Rene all attended the ceremony, but didn’t speak.
Another 700 came to Shadle Park High School for an evening service followed by a candlelight vigil.
Children who attended received white carnations. The scent of flowers filled the Shadle Park auditorium.
Rachel’s pastor, Bill Krause, said her love of God was an example others should follow.
“Follow the example of a little girl who, surrounded by travesty, had joy in her heart,” he said.
The children filled a basket on the stage with the carnations, then faced the audience and sang “Jesus Loves Me.”
After they finished, Bill Goodrick, the Spokane Police Department chaplain, told the audience that Rachel’s death held a lesson.
“Just as we came out to look for Rachel, it’ll take a whole community to raise these children,” he said.
Despite anger over Rachel’s death, those that tried to find her must heal and look to the future, Goodrick said.
“Together as a community that came together last Wednesday, I ask that you stay together.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo