Girl stabbed to death by burglar when she returned home from school remembered at party on day she would have turned 15
Hundreds of friends and relatives celebrated what would have been the 15th birthday of a girl stabbed to death by a burglar in her home last year.
Kelli O'Laughlin was allegedly killed by John L. Wilson when she returned to her family's Indian Head Park, Illinois home after school in October.
Five months on, her family decided to throw a party in celebration of her life, releasing balloons, singing her favourite songs and eating cake.
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Loss: Kelli O'Laughlin, who was stabbed to death by a burglar, would have turned 15 on Monday. Her family threw a birthday party to celebrate her life
The party soon swelled with guests donned in Kelli's favourite colour, purple - a testament to the teen's popularity.
'As Kelli once told me, "Mom, you have no idea how many friends I have",' Kelli's mother Brenda told the crowd.
'My response was, "yeah, you're right". But I never realised that you had indeed touched so many lives.'
She went on: 'Five months ago, many of us were standing at a candlelight vigil because Kelli's life was cut short.
Remembered: Family and friends release balloons at the 15th birthday party
Grief: Her mother Brenda paid tribute to her popular daughter at the party
'Today, we are standing here in celebration of her life. Kelli was all about bringing joy and happiness to the world.'
Classmates from Lyons Township High School in Western Springs also spoke at the event, which was held on Monday.
'Kelli, happy birthday. I love and miss you so much and I hope you have the best birthday ever,' said one friend.
'It just came as a shock,' Kelsey Corcoran told ABC News of the murder of her friend. 'One day she was here, the next day she wasn't.
Classmates: The choir from Kelli's school sang her favourite song
Legacy: Friends also wore t-shirts that were purple - Kelli's favourite colour
'It was a huge shock. Our worlds just came tumbling down.'
Corcoran is just one of the school friends endeavouring to keep Kelli's legacy alive by tying ribbons around trees throughout the area.
'We make sure [her legacy] stays alive,' she added. 'It reminds people of what happened and what an amazing girl she was.'
Kelli's father led the hour-long celebration and started the crowd singing 'Happy Birthday' to his daughter.
Charged: Prosecutors say that Kelli (left) returned home from school to find John L. Wilson Jr (right), who then grabbed a butcher's knife and stabbed her
Tragic: Kelli's body was found in a pool of blood by her mother two hours later
The school choir sang Taylor Swift's Long Live - Kelli's favourite song - at the park which was decorated with balloons and ribbons.
The crowd also released balloons with handwritten notes bearing anecdotes about Kelli.
Detectives who worked on the case also attended the party, bringing along their latest colleague, Kelli the bloodhound, named after the tragic teen.
Wilson has been charged with her murder. Police tracked him down after he stole Kelli's phone and taunted her mother with text messages.
Loved: After her death in October, friends and family held a candle-lit vigil
He was out on parole for armed robbery the day he allegedly broke a dining room window of Kelli's family's home with a rock wrapped in a hat.
When Kelli arrived home around 3.40 p.m., she was allegedly confronted by John Wilson who grabbed an eight inch carving knife from a butcher's block.
He stabbed Kelli in the neck, back and chest, before dragging her dead body from the family room into the kitchen, according to prosecutors.
He then ransacked the home and fled with a bowl of coins, an iPod Touch and Kelli's phone. The knife was found in large pool of blood in the family.
Site: Wilson allegedly broke into Kelli's family home by smashing a window
Shaken: Police said the suburb has changed after its first ever murder
She was discovered by her mother Brenda at around 5.30pm.
On Monday, Indian Head Park Mayor Richard Andrews said the murder had changed the small suburb, which had never had a homicide.
'The good old days of "nothing happens in Indian Head Park" [are] gone forever,' Andrews said, the Chicago Tribune reported. 'We all learned that we have to be more vigilant.'
He added that April 2 will now be known as Kelli Joy O'Laughlin Memorial Day in honour of the girl.
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