MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - An angel went home on Christmas. That's what grieving family and friends said in a memorial service for 16-year-old Derica Patterson, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Mississippi early Christmas morning.
One by one the crowd grew outside Sheffield High School the afternoon of December 28, 2011. The lawn filled with fellow classmates, teachers and friends Derica Patterson made in her short life.
"I just love that girl so much, I don't see how this could happen," said friend Raven Cathey.
Teacher Shonta Burton said of Derica, "She was just an angel, like they said; everyone wanted to be like her."
They stood silent remembering the 16-year-old. She was a talented track star and a bright student who everyone said was going places.
"She was serious about her class work," Burton said. "She would say, 'I can't make it to practice on time today, I've got to go do my work.'"
Cathey added, "She was a good girl, great girl, who could have made it - for someone to just shoot her like that… She had her head on the right track."
Derica's mother, Carol Dye, wore her daughter's cross country medals. In the midst of all the pain over her daughter's death, she expressed anger at her killers.
"They took good person, an angel, everything from me," she said. "My 3-year-old don't know where she's gone. They took my baby."
Derica's brother, Derrick, who was in the car when the shooting happened, asked of the killers, "Why us? You hurt my sister, why man, why? I pray everyday it was me… My sister's gone, the only sister I had."
Derica Patterson's funeral is Saturday, Dec. 31. It will be at 1:00pm at the Olivet Fellowship Baptist Church.