The funeral of Craigslist murder victim Katherine Ann Olson was awash in community support. In their anguish, as family and friends buoyed one another, they affirmed a vibrant life -- and hope.
Once the pews filled, mourners crowded in front of the sun-splashed arched windows of an Edina church Wednesday afternoon.
There were police officers, high school classmates, friends from St. Olaf College, visiting clergy members, relatives, neighbors and strangers. They more than filled the 1,600 seats at Christ Presbyterian Church to remember murder victim Katherine Ann Olson.
The outpouring of community support showed "that evil does not have the last word," according to the Rev. Tom Koelln, a Lutheran pastor and longtime family friend.
"We shouldn't be here today," Koelln said. "But it's so important we are here to comfort this family. God did not want another angel. What happened last Thursday was the work of evil -- undisguised, uncensored and unmasked."
The 24-year-old Olson was shot in the back last Thursday after showing up for what she thought was a baby-sitting job she had found on the Internet site Craigslist.org.
Michael J. Anderson, 19, has been charged with second-degree murder for allegedly luring her to his Savage home, shooting her once in his bedroom and abandoning her body in the trunk of her car at a nearby park.
Savage Police Capt. Dave Muelken and his partner, lead investigator Laura Kvasnicka, showed up in uniform and took seats in a pew in the back corner of the church.
"We didn't want to be a distraction or take away any attention from the celebration of Katherine's life," said Muelken, 51.
But Olson's family insisted the officers sit up front with them. Muelken said the bond forged between the police and the family is like nothing he has experienced in 30 years of law enforcement.
Both officers have photos of Olson on their desks, gifts from the family.
"It's as if they've adopted us into their family," Muelken said later. "What an incredible service."
He said that he only knew Olson since her death, and that to learn about her life "was incredible."
'Surrounded by a great cloud'
During the service, Olson's friends and relatives traded anecdotes and watched a slide-show montage of her short life as an actress, singer and lover of life.
The Rev. Craig E. Johnson, Minneapolis-area bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told Olson's family: "We are broken-hearted, but we will support you and stand beside you as long as this journey takes."
He then read a statement from Olson's family, which includes her brother Karl, sister Sarah, mother Nancy and father Rolf, a pastor at Richfield Lutheran Church.
"The outpouring of grief has come from more places than we can comprehend," they wrote. "We are truly surrounded by a great cloud."
Sarah Sevcik has been a close friend since Olson's family moved from Duluth to Cottage Grove when she was in fourth grade. She and Katherine Olson attended St. Olaf together, and Sevcik remembered her as "charming, energetic, adventurous, talented, intelligent, beautiful, gracious and humble."