Students from Auburn University gathered Monday to remember their schoolmate as more details of her murder unfolded.
Lauren Burk, an 18-year-old Freshman at the East Alabama university, was found dead just a few miles from the school last week. Her classmates and friends reflected on her life at the memorial where at least 6,000 students gathered to mourn her death.
Friends Remember Burks Life
"Her smile was contagious, all of us know that, and she could brighten a room," said Alison Penuel, a sorority sister of Burk's, "She touched all of us in a special way."
The service was especially an emotional one where crying echoed through the basketball arena. It was such a somber ceremony contrasting the normal active and upbeat atmosphere of collegiate competition and school pride.
Watch portions of the memorial service on the player.
The AU President Jay Gogue consoled Penuel as she struggled to speak of Burk who'd just pledged the Delta Gamma sorority last August when she started school at Auburn.
A high school friend of Burk's told a Columbus, Georgia television station WRBL that he'd just spoken with Burk a few days before her murder.
Now, along with others, he's in shock over the tragedy.
"She was just one of the biggest sweethearts. Friendly to everyone, outstanding and she loved to laugh," Jay Seyfried told WRBL.
Seyfried said he'd known Burk throughout high school, dated her briefly and remained friends with her.
Suspect's Confession Read in Court
On the same Monday as the memorial at Auburn, the suspect's confession was read before a Lee County judge. Detectives say 23-year-old Courtney Lockhart confessed verbally and on paper to abducting Burk, robbing her, sexually assaulting her and shooting her. Lockhart is also said to have detailed how he drove her car back to campus and set it on fire.
The former Army soldier is from a rural area not far from Auburn called Smiths. He is said to have served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. At some point in his service the Army reports he was court-martialed, sentenced to confinement and given a bad conduct discharge.
Lockhart was arrested in near-by Phenix City after attempting to get away from police in a chase. Officers say they have strong evidence, in addition to the confession, linking Lockhart to the crimes. He faces capital murder charges among others.
Mother Apologizes for Son
Lockhart's mother told a West Georgia television station that her son came back from Iraq "a changed man." She apologized to Burk's family even though her son had not told her personally that he committed the crime.
"I am sorry that Courtney did that.. First let me say I'm sorry to the Burk family for Courtney taking, taking their child.. My heart goes out to her family," An emotional Catherine Williams told WVTM-TV.
New Safety Precautions in Place
Alabama television stations are also reporting the university is implementing new security standards. Major Melvin Owens, Director of Campus Safety, says even though the location of the kidnapping hasn't been disclosed due to the ongoing investigation, that additional security is in place.
He says the schools security shuttles hours have been extended and the Campus Safety Office has a new escort service for students leaving the library.
Most students interviewed by local media say they've never felt unsafe on the campus. However, many of them admit Burk's abduction and murder rattled them and they are glad to see the extra security steps.
Burk was from Marietta Georgia and graduated from Walton High School. Her funeral was held in Marietta Sunday.
Sources: Associated Press, WSFA-TV, WRBL-TV, Fox News