HUGHSON - Family members, friends and Hughson community members gathered Friday evening in Rolland Starn Park to remember Lauren Grace London, the 25-year-old homicide victim whose burned body was found Monday, March 16 in a rural Ceres orchard.
A crowd of about 200 persons gathered in the park at dusk, many holding balloon that were released into the sunset sky over Hughson. Those in the circle of her acquaintances then took time sharing memories of the single mom with model looks.
"I don't know what my life is going to be like without her," said her mother, Denise London Donnell of Hughson. "She was very, very special."
Stanislaus County Sheriff's Detectives continue to piece together clues and follow leads in an effort to find out who killed Lauren and left her burned remains on a dirt road between orchards in the 4300 block of Blaker Road across from the Ceres wastewater treatment plant. A person who was walking through the orchard found the body near a pile of dry branches and called 911 at 2:27 p.m. A burned furniture dolly was found near the body.
Sheriff's detectives haven't said if the discovery site was where the death took place or if she was killed somewhere else and dumped there. Sheriff's Department spokesman deputy Anthony Bejaran would not divulge how London - who would have been 25 on the day of the discovery - died. But he did say the burning of the body showed "a bit more aggression" than in typical homicides.
Lauren leaves behind her parents and her sister, Lindsay London of Hughson. She also leaves behind her daughter who turns two years old in April.
Those who knew Lauren while growing up in Hughson remember a girl with infectious laughter, a woman who didn't take herself seriously, and a loving person. Those who attended Hughson High School with her up until her 2008 graduation remember she was a good volleyball player who made senior class clown in the Huskies yearbook.
"She was the same for everybody," said friend Taylor Eastham, who was pregnant the same time as Lauren. "She could make anybody laugh. No shame and no fear."
Abbie, a 13-year friend of Lauren's, recalled a time when they waited in a line to see a San Francisco Giants game for eight hours in 2009. She said Lauren "got to know everyone" in line while killing time.
Others remembered how Lauren would tell jokes and laugh in class. She wasn't afraid to give her honest opinions of controversial topics.
Denise London Donnell remembered the funny and inappropriate things spoken by Lauren as a child.
"The things that came out of her mouth blew me away," said Donnell.
She related how Lauren was a sensitive girl, once "bawling her eyes out on the sofa" in reaction to watching TV and the death of a dinosaur character.
Lauren reportedly led a troubled life in recent years with drug and alcohol addiction after high school. One friend at the memorial spoke about her drinking problem. Another said she met Lauren through Alcoholics Anonymous. Giving birth to Kennidee, she posted on Facebook on June 15, 2013 was "the best thing that has ever happened to me."
Her Facebook postings reflected a dark side to her life. Last May she posted: "Rather be without a home then (sic) to accept getting beat by a man. Wait that's not a man, that's a p---y." On Sept. 2, 2014 she posted this message: "Got a job and renting a room in a cute home. Hardcore dying of a broken heart, I miss my family so much it kills."
Anyone with information on the homicide or any suspects is urged to contact Detective Frank Soria at 525-7080. Persons with tips may leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636 or e-mail tips to http://www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers, or text tips to 274637 and typing "Tip704" plus the message to be eligible for a cash reward.
A Lauren Grace Memorial Fund is seeking to raise $14,000 to pay for funeral expenses and help with her daughter's college fund through gofundme.com. A total of $11,860 had been raised by 191 people in just four days.