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Oregon Town Mourns Slain Girls

One of Ashley Pond's favorite teachers read from a class journal, and friends and family of Miranda Gaddis shared personal recollections, at a public memorial service Thursday night for the two murder victims.

An overflow crowd packed the high school for the service that tried to focus on the lives led by Pond and Gaddis instead of the kidnappings and murders which thrust them into the headlines.

Pond was kidnapped on Jan. 9 - a few weeks before her 13th birthday - and Gaddis, 13, was reported missing on March 8.

The bodies of the two girls - who were kidnapped on Jan. 9 and March 8 - were found last weekend in the backyard of Ward Weaver III, who rented a house across the street from the apartment complex where both girls lived.

Weaver is in jail on an unrelated rape charge; a grand jury is hearing evidence against him in the Pond and Gaddis murders, which have an eerie resemblance to a murder committed by his father, an inmate on Death Row at San Quentin in California.

Pond's body was found in a 55-gallon barrel under a concrete slab; Gaddis' was in a cardboard box wrapped in a plastic bag on the floor of a shed.

The dreams of a young girl rang out through the auditorium as Meladee Beeson, Pond's English teacher, read aloud an essay Pond wrote called "What I Do Well."

"I like to do gymnastics. I can do the rings and the bars and I'm practicing on the beam," Pond wrote. "I can almost do the splits. I'm working on being able to do the backbend pullover...I'll keep trying."

Over a thousand people - many of them teenage girls wearing yellow memorial ribbons - took part in the memorial service.

The disappearance of the two girls last winter - and the grisly discovery of their bodies - has touched the emotions of people across the country.

Relatives, teachers and the police chief who helped lead the seven-month search read poems and messages of support for the family.

"Although most of us have never met them, we feel like we have always known them. We adopted them into our law enforcement family and we will never forget them," said Gordon Huiras, Oregon City police chief.

"There were many sleepless nights, watery eyes and tears at many stages of this investigation."

A video collage showed snapshots from family albums - Gaddis sitting on Santa Claus' lap as a young girl, Pond playing video games in a sleeping bag - mixed with quotes about the pair from friends.

"Miranda could make twiddling your fingers seem exciting," one friend had said.

Dance teams from around Oregon sent representatives to the memorial, as both girls were members of the "Fallen Angels" - their junior high school's dance team - along with the daughter of the murder suspect, who was a friend of Ashley's.

"Everybody that's on a dance team is bonded like family. We all have something in common," said 16-year-old Kristie Boisjolie, who dances with her high school team in Estacada.

She recalled seeing Miranda dance at a competition in Escatada last year.

"She was very cute when she danced. She had the cutest smile," Kristie said.

Also among the mourners were 60 current and past members of the Oregon City high school dance team.

Many of the people who came to pay their respects brought flowers and cards.

The murders are not the first time that the two girls' names wound up on the police blotter. Both were victims of sexual abuse - Pond by her father, and Gaddis by a former boyfriend of her mother's - and Pond furthermore last year accused Weaver of sexually molesting her, an allegation which did not result in formal charges.

Weaver has been in Clackamas County Jail since August 13, on a charge of raping the girlfriend of his 19-year-old son, Francis Weaver.

After the alleged rape, the son called 911 and told a dispatcher his father had confessed to killing the two girls.

Ward Weaver has not been charged with the murders but police awaiting what they believe will be his indictment have said that they believe the case has been solved.