Sweet, "a blessing to have in class" and especially smiley.
That's how those who knew 13-year-old Macala Shelton remembered her Tuesday as they planted a fuchsia outside Tillicum Elementary School in honor of the former student, who was fatally stabbed in June after moving to Missouri earlier this year.
About 30 educators and others who knew her shared stories of a kind, inquisitive girl who was proud of her family and protective of her younger siblings. A girl who, as an elementary schooler, wanted to know what exactly her gym teacher was writing on his clipboard during class, and once saved a fistful of melting jellybeans she earned in school to give to her sisters.
And then there was the pink coat she was thrilled to get a few years ago.
The shrub planted was a similar color, which teachers said she probably would have loved.
A plaque with Macala's name will sit next to the plant, joining those for other students and staff in Tillicum's memorial garden.
"A school shouldn't have to have a memorial garden, " Tillicum Principal Taj Jensen said to the crowd. "I hope we don't have to do this again."
Steven Neal Henderson, who The Associated Press reported was Macala's 30-year-old stepuncle, was charged with first-degree murder after the girl was found fatally stabbed in a wooded area of a vacant farm near Iberia, Mo., at the end of June.
His bail was set at $500,000, and he has not yet entered a plea, the Miller County Prosecutor's Office in Missouri said Tuesday.
Those gathered in Macala's honor Tuesday wrote their memories of the girl on a poster to share with her family. Chatting and telling funny stories were some of the girl's trademarks, they said.
When Rose Muñoz started volunteering at an after-school instructional program at the elementary school, it was Macala who first made her feel welcome by striking up a conversation.
Jody Fritz taught Macala's seventh-grade class at Woodbrook Middle School in Lakewood, where the girl was a student before she moved away in late winter. Fritz said her students will complain about where she has them sit in class, but "nobody ever said: 'I don't want to sit by Macala.' "
Paraeducator Jamie Price helped the teen with reading, and remembers how much she appreciated praise for her work.
"She would light up, " Price said. "She didn't have a mean bone in her body."
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Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268 alexis.krell@ thenewstribune.com www.thenewstribune.com/crime-news