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Friends remember girl killed last Halloween

Teenagers gather to celebrate a friend who smiled easily and loved butterflies.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000

[Times photo: Steve Hasel]
Carl Cichocki, left, and Chris Elmore, right, tie notes Tuesday to a memorial wreath for their friend Allison Decatrel at a service at the site of her death on Highlands Boulevard south of Inverness.
INVERNESS -- They should have been putting the finishing touches on their scary costumes for the night.

But a group of 50 or so teenagers gathered under the clear twilight of Halloween evening Tuesday to celebrate butterflies.

It was a year ago that their friend, Allison Decatrel, 17, a Citrus High School student, was struck by a car while trick-or-treating with friends in the Highlands area. The friends gathered at the spot of the fatal collision at South Highlands Avenue and East Lynn Street to christen a memorial plaque in her honor.

More importantly, they came to celebrate the girl who smiled easily and loved butterflies, the one whom many considered a best friend.

The Rev. Max Wilkins, pastor at First United Methodist Church of Inverness, said he has learned a few things about butterflies since he handled Decatrel's funeral a year ago, during which a flock of the winged creatures was set loose. They undergo a tough struggle before they emerge from a cocoon and spread their wings. And their beauty is short-lived.

"It kind of makes you think: What's the point?" Wilkins said. "I think God puts people and things here just to be beautiful. We celebrate Allison's life because it was something beautiful."

Deputies with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office closed off a block of South Highlands Avenue for the short memorial service. A year ago, they were investigating a hit-and-run collision that the Florida Highway Patrol has labeled a murder.

Investigators with the Highway Patrol say one of Decatrel's classmates, Richard Burzynski, intentionally ran her over after a dispute between two groups of teenagers. Burzynski is awaiting trial now scheduled for February on first-degree murder and other charges.

In his remarks, Wilkins made only passing reference to Burzynski, telling the teenagers that life is too short to spend on hate.

Friends of Decatrel's, who included a few adults, signed their names and pinned them to a wreath. A framed collage of butterflies, arranged by friend Kerri Ann McMullen, who could not attend the memorial, sat next to a new granite memorial where a white cross had stood.

It read, simply: "In memory of Allison Decatrel."

A couple of the teenagers gave brief testimonials. Amy Glass, 19, a friend of Decatrel's since kindergarten who was with her the night she died, echoed the comments of many of the teenagers who said they miss her.

"I think the main thing that pulls us through all this is that we know that she's in a better place and we know she's watching over us always," Glass said.

Chris Elmore, another friend with her Halloween night, said, "She was a good, easy-going person who was always kind to people."

Elmore's mother, Lisa Elmore, wrote a poem that Elmore read to the teenagers gathered.

"You always encouraged us with your smile," Elmore read. "Your life was so important, even though it was for a short while."

Wilkins said the granite memorial would not have as much meaning if Decatrel's friends simply used its unveiling as a chance to remember her. He told a story about placing a call to his parents using a calling card. With a minute left on the card, he got a message saying he had a minute left to speak.

After his mother said she loved him, she tried to say one thing more but was cut off.

"All of us need to remember life is like that," he said. "But we don't get the warning."

He encouraged the young people to live their lives fully. As the memorial ended, Chris Elmore played Decatrel's favorite song from his car radio as everyone lit candles. The opening lyrics played well with Wilkins' message.

"I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories."

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