ST. JOHN — As dusk set in, more than 100 people huddled together for comfort and warmth to remember a young woman whose life was abruptly cut short by a bullet.
Photos of 19-year-old Molley Lanham smiling serenely on a beach, laughing with friends and beaming from childhood photos of family vacations were illuminated by the flickering light of countless votive candles.
The Friday evening vigil for Lanham, who was killed on Feb. 25, gathered scores of friends and family at the Lake Hills Park in St. John — a place where Molley Lanham would often come to find solace in nature.
On March 2, Lanham and Thomas Grill Jr. were found in a burned-out car in south Porter County. Seventeen-year-old Connor Kerner, of Valparaiso, has been charged with two counts of murder in connection with their deaths.
“Molley spent a lot of time at Lake Hills (Park) reading and writing, so this is a place very close to her heart,” Molley's sister, Lindsey Lanham, said.
One by one, people lit each other's candles, the flames illuminating groups of solemn and tear-streaked faces.
“I know that you are all here out of love for Molley and her family. They arranged for us to have a beautiful night out here in a place she found such peace and solitude,” Deacon Bill Sayre of the St. John the Evangelist Church said at the vigil's start. “We live in a world of injustices and wrongs... Today, dear Lord, we come to you mourning and weeping, exhausted and confused. We come to you tonight mourning the loss of our daughter, sister and friend, Molley.”
Lauren Lanham, Molley's oldest sister, said Molley will always be their sister and friend. She read a poem from one of the 19-year-old's favorite books, which begins, “It gets better. You will not have the blues forever ...”
As the poem continued, the words floated in the chilly air, amid the distant calls of geese in the dark skies. The park's amphitheater was now flanked by countless flickering lights and the sun had fully set.
The poem ended, “This, too, shall pass.”
“For a long time, Molley struggled and she thought if she were gone, no one would care,” Lindsey Lanham said to the crowd. “And I know she's looking down on us right now, and I just want her to see all of these people who clearly love her and care about her are here. That's just me talking to Molley, and I want her to know we are here for her, and we will continue to be here for her in the coming weeks, months, years and the rest of our lives.”
Her friends came forward to talk about the impact Molley Lanham had in their lives. Her aunt addressed the crowd tearfully, remembering her niece's inner and outer beauty.
“From where I stand, the crowd of candles that light the night are as beautiful as her being,” she said. “These candles you hold are a symbol of Molley's life, she held a special light of love for her family, her friends and her animals. She had a light of laughter and her smile showed everyone her beautiful face.”
Kate Dovichi, who became friends with Molley Lanham at Hanover High School, said the last time she saw her friend was during a time of celebration.
"Last time I saw her was on her 19th birthday, she was so ecstatic that everyone came to hang out with her, and we all went bowling."
Angle Martin, a neighbor and friend, said Molley Lanham was the type of person who was always there for others.
"She liked to be people's support system and she wanted to know that people cared about her and feel supported," Martin said.
Molley Lanham's wake will be from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Burns Funeral Home at 10101 Broadway in Crown Point.
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