As mourners celebrated Jessica Lee’s life during her funeral Tuesday, the Rev. Jennifer K. Knighton invoked the words of Psalm 91 that speak of God’s protection for those who believe in him.
“Now, he protects Jessie in heaven, where there is no one who can harm her again,” said Knighton, the officiating minister from Grace United Church of Christ in Baltimore.
About 200 people filled St. John’s United Church of Christ in Catonsville to remember Lee, 20, of Brooklyn Park. Her body was found in a field behind Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Pasadena Aug. 6. DNA confirmed the identity of her remains Aug. 17, police said.
Police continue to investigate the case as a homicide. No arrests have been made.
Referring to the search for Lee, who had been missing since May 8 after leaving home following an argument with her mother, Knighton said the past few months have been difficult. Answers still are not easy to discern, she said.
“This has been a tough summer, from the beginning the search began,” she said in her eulogy. “You know, the more I think, the more I ponder, the more confusing it becomes. But I have to think of her smile and how Jessica was Jessie.”
The service also featured Psalm 23, also known as “The Lord is My Shepherd,” and St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, which details St. Paul’s treatise on love: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous,” among other attributes.
While mourners could be sad, they also should celebrate because Lee is in heaven with God, Knighton said.
“We can shed tears because she is gone—or smile because she lived,” she said.
LaRue Stanley, a family friend of Lee’s aunt and uncle, Shirley and Ed Burke, echoed that theme when Knighton asked people to offer their remembrances of Lee.
“As a Christian, I want to say Jessie is in a place with the Lord. She is in the place we want to go,” she told the crowd. “All of us say our time on earth is short, but there’s no time with God.”
Although the tone was somber, many in the crowd found some humor in Knighton’s recollection of Lee’s talkative nature.
“She had her own way, and we had to love her. If you were talking to her, you couldn’t get away,” she said as many chuckled. “It was her friendliness and how she embraced people.”
Lee’s love of life and willingness to do the unexpected seemed to inspire Knighton, she said. After talking with Lee about a tattoo she had, Knighton said she is thinking of getting her own.
After the service, mourners remained in the church to surround Lee’s family, particularly Ann Burke, Lee’s mother, and her aunt and uncle.
“My baby,” Ann Burke said, her eyes red from crying.
“It’s going to be like that some days, but there will be justice,” Stanley told her.
Before Stanley approached her, she spoke of how difficult this summer has been for the Burke family, and that is why she felt compelled to speak during the service.
“As a Christian, I know the truth: there’s no such thing as death. That means (Lee) will get to see the face of God before we do,” she said.
While the family hopes for an arrest, God is working his own form of justice, Stanley said.
“There is justice with God. They aren’t sleeping at night,” she said. “They aren’t going to get away with anything. God is going to convict their hearts.”
Meanwhile, the Burkes have set up a trust fund for Lee’s 16-month-old daughter, Maygan Marie. The first fundraiser is a quarter auction from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Glen Burnie Moose Lodge, 1911 Crain Highway. Tickets are $15.
For details on the fundraiser, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/156936737763829/.