People liked Macala Shelton.
“She was just the sweetest little girl, and she’s someone who had lots of friends,” Principal Nancy LaChapelle said about her former student at Woodbrook Middle School in Lakewood. “No enemies at all. Sometimes I think that’s pretty hard to do in middle school.”
A tree will be planted outside Tillicum Elementary School in memory of 13-year-old Macala, who was killed last month in Missouri. The planting will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 20 and everyone is welcome, LaChapelle said.
Macala attended Woodbrook in sixth grade and half of seventh grade before her family moved out of state about February, the principal said.
She remembers the girl as the student who would seek her out in the cafeteria, eager to share stories about how she liked baking pies with her mom and hunting with her dad.
“She would always come up to me and have some chatter about something going on in her life,” LaChapelle said. “Not every kid wants to run up to the principal and start a conversation. That always endeared her to me.”
Macala was found fatally stabbed in a wooded area of a vacant farm near Iberia, Mo., at the end of June. Her family had been living in Iberia, according to The News Tribune newspaper in Jefferson City, Mo.
Steven Neal Henderson, 30, was charged with first-degree murder in her death. Court papers allege he killed the girl with a large survival knife early on the morning of June 22, the newspaper reported. Henderson is the brother of Macala’s step-father, according to The Associated Press.
LaChapelle didn’t know why the family moved or how long they lived in the area, but said Macala studied at Tillicum for at least part of elementary school. She took academics seriously, LaChapelle said.
The teen helped take care of her younger siblings at home and loved her family, the principal said.
At the tree-planting, a memory book will be compiled to send to Macala’s loved ones.
A widely published photo of Macala shows a girl with long brown hair, glasses and a lopsided smile, wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Little Miss Sunshine.”
“I don’t have any children, but if I ever did, she’d be one I’d pick,” LaChapelle said. “I just think she was a gem.”
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268 alexis.krell@ thenewstribune.com thenewstribune.com/crime-news