NORTH OGDEN -- The hearse with Alexis Michele Rasmussen's body pulled away from the LDS Stake Center, leaving a swirl of crisp autumn leaves in its wake.
As older mourners wept and hugged, a group of Rasmussen's teenage friends and Weber High School classmates gathered some of the 70 yellow helium balloons they had tied around the church grounds before the funeral service. The teens stood together and released the balloons to the gray sky.
"Yellow was her favorite color, and Lexi always had a bright, sunny smile," said Anissa Nunez, who was a friend of Rasmussen's in junior high. "The balloons are to remember her in heaven, smiling down on us."
About 450 mourners, family, friends and strangers, packed the church late Saturday morning for a service that would honor the blond, green-eyed 16-year-old, but would make no mention of how she died.
Rasmussen never returned from a Sept. 9 baby-sitting job for her North Ogden neighbors, Eric and Dea Millerbergs. Acting on a tip, police recovered Rasmussen's body on Oct. 18 in rural Morgan County.
"She was always there when someone needed her," Nunez said, of Rasmussen. "She would crack a joke to cheer you up. She didn't deserve this."
Before the service, young men hurried to place more folding chairs for mourners who would fill the chapel and the recreation hall behind it. Guests stood, moist-eyed and silent, watching a video slide show of a smiling Rasmussen as a baby, a child and a teen, posing with friends and family, mugging for the camera.
Beside a funeral guest sign-in book rested two homemade books Rasmussen crafted as a second-grader. She had filled them with crayon coloring, creative spellings and enthusiasm for the world around her.
In a short service, Rasmussen was remembered by her family and friends. Brittany Rudd, Rasmussen's aunt, talked about her niece's great sense of humor, masterful use of sarcasm, intelligence, love for her young cousins and for all babies, her messy bedroom and her vivacious nature.
"It didn't matter what you told her, she was bound and determined to learn life's lessons the hard way," Rudd said, smiling through her tears.
Sidney Shaw was Rasmussen's best friend, and read a playful note Rasmussen had once sent her.
It said, in part, "Please don't die anytime soon, but if you do you would go to heaven because you have a great soul."
Shaw's voice broke with emotion as she said, directly to her late friend, "I love you, my bestie. Rest in paradise."
The service featured nine of Rasmussen's young cousins singing "I Am a Child of God," and closed with the playing of a recorded song by The Band Perry, "If I Die Young." Rasmussen's body was to be interred at the Valley View Memorial Park, in West Valley City.
"It broke my heart when I heard what happened to Lexi," Nunez said, after the service. "It crushed me. She was too young to go. She had her whole life ahead of her."
Family friend Karen Kagie said Rasmussen made a difference in the world.
"Lexi brought people together, even people she didn't know," Kagie said, motioning to the crowd gathered around the church. "She was a ray of sunshine whereever she went. She will be missed. I hope she gets justice."