CAYCE, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina community that searched, prayed and then cried for a missing 6-year-old girlsaid goodbye Friday to the youngster, who disappeared from her front yard and was found dead three days later.
A sea of bright colors, especially pink and purple, filled Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce where folk gathered for a public memorial service to honor and remember the bubbly spirit of 6-year-old Faye Marie Swetlik. The stairs leading to the pulpit were filled with flowers, stuffed animals and pictures of the child.
Prior to a eulogy read by the church’s pastor, Dr. Eddie Coakley, the song “Better When I’m Dancing” played as a video rolled showing photos of Faye’s smiling face. Audience members were seen wiping away tears as that and other videos of the child were played.
Coakley said the eulogy was written by the girl’s mother, who acknowledged having a hard time “explaining the life of someone who meant so much to so many in just a few paragraphs.”
Her mother wrote that Faye “became my whole world in just a few minutes”and recalled how she got her name.
“Faye is French for fairy. When I was pregnant, she felt like fairies dancing around. And I always wanted her to believe in magic, so she was dubbed Faye Marie — my little fairy Mary. Änd magic she was. From the day she was born, we taught her the beaut of magic and the most important magic of all — love. Faye loved hard. There wasn’t a single person she couldn’t make smile. She wanted everyone to be as happy as she was,” said the message, read out by Coakley.
“So long as we can love one another, her memory lives on,” the pastor continued, reading from the mother’s statement.
She also said in the statement: “I ask when you leave here to love a little more, to be a little more kind, to compliment a stranger, to dance in the rain, to stop and smell the flowers and show just a little bit more love to everyone you meet and just have a Faye day.”
The girl was a first-grader at Springdale Elementary School and was playing in her front yard after getting off the school bus Feb. 10 when she disappeared.
More than 200 officers searched for her until Thursday, when Faye’s rain boot found in a neighbor’s trash can led police to search a nearby area for a fourth time. That’s when theyfound her body recently placed there.
DNA evidence connects the girl’s death to that neighbor, 30-year-old Coty Scott Taylor, authorities said.
Right after Faye’s body was found, Taylor was found dead with his own thrato slit on his patio, according to the Lexington County Coroner’s Office.
Officers questioned Taylor and went into his home the day before the girl’s body was found, but Cayce Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove said they found no evidence of the girl at that time.
Investigators have not said why Taylor, who had no criminal record, wanted to kidnap the girl. The coroner’s office said that, out of respect for Faye’s family, they were refusing to release any details about the condition of the girl’s body or disclose any other way she might have been injured beyond dying of asphyxiation.
The girl’s disappearance shocked Cayce, a town of about 13,000 just west of Columbia, the state capital. Several prayer vigils were held while she was missing and after her body was found. Both the county coroner and the police chief in Cayce said they and their employees were shaken
In her obituary, Faye’s family said she was gone too soon but wouldn’t be forgotten.
“She made everyone believe in all things good again. She left behind a world that loved her. May she forever sparkle,” they wrote.
Coakley said as he closed the service that the family asked people to write in journals stationed around the church a little note “as if you were writing to Faye” or to the family. The books would later be given to the family, he said.
“Thank you for being here tonight. What a blessing to be here to honor Faye,” Coakley said.