Several dozen people gathered at a cemetery overlooking the Carquinez Strait in Benicia to remember the 13-year-old Suisun City girl who was found raped and murdered in a Fairfield park earlier this month.
Under a cloudless blue sky, mourners stood around a white casket adorned with flowers and draped with a poster-size picture of Genelle Conway-Allen. Genelle's body was discovered by a passerby in a parking lot at Allan Witt Park around 6:45 a.m. on Feb. 1.
The man accused of killing her, 32-year-old Anthony Lemar Jones, pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in a Fairfield courtroom Thursday morning.
"I know we would all rather be anywhere else but here today," Pastor Jerry Pollard of Gateway Church in Benicia said at the start of the 1 p.m. service.
"It's a horrific, horrible thing that happened to Genelle," he said.
Some of Genelle's friends and classmates from Green Valley Middle School in Fairfield wore white T-shirts bearing a picture of the teen, who was in foster care at the time of her death.
Many who spoke at the service described Genelle as a girl with a bright smile who loved to write songs and poetry.
"When I first met Genelle, she came up and introduced herself to me. Ever since then, we clicked," one girl recalled tearfully, clutching a tissue. "We'll miss her."
Greg Hubbs, the principal of Green Valley Middle School, remembered Genelle as energetic and outgoing.
The day before her murder, she visited his office and told him "she was doing better in school," he recalled.
When she was reported missing and later found murdered, the school provided grief counselors for students and gave them time to write about their feelings, he said.
On top of missing their classmate, Hubbs said, some students have expressed a sense that "this could happen to me, too."
"You have to say, 'Be careful -- your parents want you to be safe and there's a reason,'" Hubbs said.
A week after Genelle's body was discovered, police announced they had arrested Jones, a Fairfield resident.
Police say they identified Jones as a suspect early on in the investigation and put him under round-the-clock surveillance before arresting him at a home in Fairfield the morning of Feb. 8. He is being held in Solano County Jail without bail.
Jones pleaded not guilty in Solano County Superior Court Thursday morning to murder with special circumstances that the murder was committed during a rape and a kidnapping.
The special-circumstance allegations make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
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