"Every encounter held the potential for a new friendship," her roommate Matt Thiede said Wednesday at Olson's funeral, which drew almost 1,400 mourners to Christ Presbyterian Church in this Minneapolis suburb.
It was a meeting with a stranger last weekend that led to Olson's murder. Authorities in Scott County on Tuesday charged Michael John Anderson, 19, with second-degree murder. In a criminal complaint, they accused him of luring Olson to the house where he lived with his parents by posting an ad for a babysitter on the Internet bulletin board Craigslist, then shooting her in the back and leaving her in the trunk of her car in a nearby park.
"Do not say her senseless and violent death was what God wanted," Pastor Tom Koelln, a family friend, said during the service. "That would be an insult to God and an insult to the Olson family. We do not believe in a cruel and capricious God. What happened was evil - undisguised, uncensored, unmasked evil."
A slideshow during the ceremony showed Olson most often with a wide smile on her face, and several eulogizers recounted how a young girl who knew Katherine said after her death that she was "the girl who looked like sunshine," Thiede recalled.
On Facebook.com, a social networking site, more than 1,200 people had signed up to pay respects, reports The Chicago Tribune.
Olson had recently been studying to be a Spanish-English interpreter, Bishop Craig Johnson said. But just a few days before her death, Olson confided to her father that she had changed her mind.
"She had heard it described that the role of the interpreter was to be invisible," Johnson said. "She said, 'That's not me. I'm an actress - I want to stay in front."'
For Olson to suddenly change her mind about her life's course was not uncommon, said Sarah Sevcik, a friend since grade school. Olson, who graduated from Park-Cottage Grove High School and St. Olaf's College, loved books and knowledge and information, and "every time she read a new book she would come to you and say that she was changing the entire structure of her life."
The 90-minute funeral dwelled mostly on Olson's life and positive impact on her friends and family. But Johnson relayed a message from Olson's immediate family, asking that mourners pray for everyone involved in the tragedy - and, "please also pray for Katherine's murderer and their family. Their sadness must be great."
That's what Katherine Olson would have wanted, Johnson said, as he continued to pass along the family's message: "Katherine wrote a paper in high school called, 'Revenge in Hamlet: A Bad Idea.' We agree."
It's believed to be the first homicide connected to Craigslist, where people trade merchandise and hunt for jobs. A warning appeared on the site Tuesday in the section of "Education" jobs, which includes a number of ads seeking nannies and baby-sitters.
Under the heading, "Warning - for those who don't watch the news," the ad read: "Someone who answered a Craigslist ad for a nanny job ended up dead. Be careful out there," reports the Tribune.