TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Hundreds of community members came together on Saturday morning, April 29, to celebrate and mourn the life of a Tucson girl, 6-year old Isabel Celis.
Celis has been missing for the past five years, but last month her remains were discovered by investigators in a remote location in Pima County.
The public service was held at St. Augustine Chapel in downtown Tucson.
Isabel's mother, Becky, addressed the crowd at the end of the service. She thanked the community for all their prayers and support over the years. She asked everyone to "remember my daughter – happy and playful and not in the way she was taken, but the good memories."
Small cards were handed out before the service with Isabel's picture. The card lists her birth date as Aug. 27, 2005 and her death date as March 3, 2017. That's a few weeks before police announced that her body had been found.
Dressed in Isabel's favorite color, purple, mourners filed into St. Augustine Chapel at 10 a.m. to close the chapter on a missing girl who touched the lives of so many in our community.
"A child full of life and no concerns, just happy," Mourner Mary Cunningham said.
Isabel was only 6-years-old when she disappeared from her bedroom under suspicious circumstances in April of 2012. Relative Lance Larson said he's been haunted by her abduction.
"It was awful. When this happened, I would get up three times a night and check on my girls," Larson said.
Strangers came out in droves during the initial months and even years later to help search for Celis and put up missing person fliers all over town that showed her bright eyes and big smile.
"Pass by her room and she'd be sitting there singing to herself – just a fun kid. Happy-go-lucky kid," Larson said.
"We've been following and praying every night," Mourner Laura Batt said.
Praying she would come home safe. But in March, investigators discovered Celis' remains in a remote location in Pima County. After the service on Saturday, the purple balloons that once symbolized hope for Celis' safe return now symbolize release, closure and the family's gratitude for all who helped in the search. Police have not made any arrests in connection to her death. Relatives said they're still holding out for justice.
"She's at peace but you would like to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else," Larson said.