Months passed between the disappearance of 24-year-old Mandy Matula and the discovery of her body, but during those painful weeks, many people came together to find her. On Sunday, they came together again to say goodbye.
Those who searched along river banks or combed through stretches of land -- even those who never met Matula, were saddened to hear her body had been found in a shallow grave in a park north of Sartell, Minn. -- and many of them came to Grace Church in Eden Prairie to ensure she would be laid to rest properly.
For the hundreds who attended, it was a chance to say one final goodbye, and a chance to celebrate a life that was cut short.
Matula's father, Wayne, was the first to take to the stage to remember his daughter, describing her as the best of the best, the apple of his eye, unique -- a girl who could dress up and look pretty with the girls or play in the mud with the guys.
There were no dry eyes in the sanctuary, which displayed photos of Mandy Matula and was done up in purple -- her favorite color -- as her family thanked police, emergency responders and all the volunteers who helped them search.
Although somber, the funeral was certainly a celebration as well, with friends and loved ones sharing memories about what made Mandy Matula so special. In fact, a surprise announcement came when her former softball coach announced they would be retiring her jersey number, 14, forever in her memory.
There was no talk about how her life was stolen, although the police are keeping their case open despite believing her estranged boyfriend, 24-year-old David Roe, to be the lone suspect in her death.