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BELLEVILLE, Ont. (CP) — A vibrant, strong-willed woman, with a “profound zest and love of life” was remembered Saturday as hundreds of people from this tight-knit community crowded inside a funeral home to mourn the death of 27-year-old Jessica Lloyd.
Her death is at the centre of a murder investigation that has resulted in charges against a senior Canadian Forces officer, which has rocked the military.
Lines of cars snaked around the street, as friends and family filed into the John R. Bush Funeral Home for a private ceremony.
The eulogy was played through speakers to the dozens of people outside who were holding candles, wiping away tears, and clutching signs, bearing the title, “RIP Jessica.”
The Belleville woman’s body was discovered Monday in the community of Tweed — she was reported missing last month.
Shortly after her body was discovered, the town was stunned as police announced first degree murder charges against Col. Russell Williams, considered a rising star in the Canadian military.
Carrie Plews, 29, shuffled into the small chapel inside the funeral home before 1 p.m., quietly weeping, as she described her friend and the impact the young woman’s death has had on the family.
“She was just an all around beautiful person, just great to be around,” said Plews, who had spoken with Lloyd’s brother on Friday.
“I kind of broke down when I was talking to Andy. He’s her big brother. He’s like a big teddy bear. It was really hard,” she said, dabbing her eyes with a crumpled tissue.
During the hour-long service, two of Lloyd’s cousins described the young woman’s wit, love of country living and strong connection to her brother.
“ Those green eyes could catch the attention of anyone from across the room,” said her cousin, Sarah Lloyd, who along with her brother, John, gave the eulogy.
Lloyd was born in Ottawa but moved to Belleville at eight and came to embrace the small city, but yearned for the country.
“She loved the beauty of an overnight frost in the countryside,” the Rev. Cathy Paul said during the service.
Her cousins’ described the close connection she had with her brother, Andy, who would walk a few steps behind her when she strolled to school as a child.
Lloyd said her cousin had a snappy sense of humour, often teasing her brother.
Sharing an anecdote, Lloyd described how her cousin’s Ninja, a motorcycle, was a newer model by two years from her brother’s. It was a fact Jessica Lloyd loved to tease her brother about.
She loved all kinds of music from Jay-Z to George Strait. “ You can’t cover Jess with one song,” her cousin, John Lloyd said with a soft chuckle. She loved hockey, especially Tie Domi, and joked that she would name her child after the former hockey star.
“It was a comforting service, a celebration of her life, and affirming” said Rev. Audrey Whitney, as teams of people poured out of the building, and the sound of bag pipes resonated in the background.
Photos, flowers and collages filled the room, showing the pretty brunette tightly hugging her brother, arms flung around her friends.
Members of the military also attended the service. Lt. Col David Murphy, who has taken over for Williams as acting commander at the base was at the funeral.
Outside the chapel, the community rallied to show support.
“It’s such a small community and it has been such a shock. You don’t expect it to happen in such a small place,” said Karen Kehler, as she sobbed, visibly disturbed by the event that has rocked the city.
“ You just want to be able to do something for the family,” she added.
Signs outside local stores in Belleville read “ We love you Jessica,” and people stood silently along the street outside the funeral home.
Williams is scheduled to next appear in court via video link Feb. 18 to face the charges that are unproven.