RANDOLPH, Vt. (AP) – Nearly 1,000 people who turned out Wednesday to say goodbye to a slain 12-year-old girl got a three-word plea from a pastor: “Never, never again.”

In a funeral for Brooke Bennett, Pastor Thomas Harty of United Church of Bethel had mourners repeat those words after him as he led the service for the girl, who disappeared June 25 and was found dead a week later, buried in a shallow grave.

Her uncle has been charged with kidnapping her.

The service was held under a tent behind Randolph Union High School, where Bennett attended seventh grade.

“We come here to pour out our grief and face our anger,” Harty told the mourners, some of whom wore buttons with Brooke’s photo or wiped away tears as they fanned themselves in the wilting heat.

A half-dozen clergy from local churches read scripture, led hymns and assured the grieving family that through faith and community support, they could endure the tragedy.

Standing above Brooke’s casket, her sister read a prayer asked the Lord for help.

“For we have lost someone precious,” said Savanna Andress. “Give us hope …. tell us life will still go on,” she said.

The girl’s disappearance, which triggered the state’s first Amber Alert, ended with the discovery of her body July 2. Michael Jacques, 42, is accused of orchestrating her abduction with plans to initiate her into “a program for sex.”

The case has shaken this small rural community.

“It’s not like it’s blackened our community. It’s just really dampened our spirits,” said Rose Wright, of Brookfield. “It makes the community come together. To think a little child like that was harmed, it’s just really sad.”

Brooke’s young cousin, who is Michael Jacques’ daughter, spoke at the funeral after being led to the front of the tent by her mother, Denise Jacques, the wife of Michael Jacques.

“She was such a good person,” said Courtney Jacques, who said Brooke liked to travel, hang out with her cousins, play basketball and play lacrosse.

Kayla Thompson, 14, attended the service to show the family support and “to get rid of the grief.”

Ali Dyer, 12, a friend of Brooke’s, teared up as she talked about her. Brooke was fun, really dramatic and they did crazy things together, like swimming in mud puddles, she said.

“She was a really good friend,” Dyer said.

The circumstances surrounding Brooke’s death were not forgotten as her short life was remembered.

Mourners sang “We shall Overcome,” as her casket sat in front of the tent surrounded by flowers, photo collages, her pink lacrosse stick and an athletic jersey.

“This life was cut too short but it has meaning,” Harty said. “It will make change.”

“God will bring good from this,” said Rev. Ronald Rilling.

AP-ES-07-09-08 1525EDT


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