Most dressed in purple, Taylor Robinson’s favorite color, offering a glimmer of brightness in contrast to Saturday’s otherwise darkened late morning sky.
They came to Akron’s Mount Calvary Baptist Church to remember the 19-year-old Akron woman whose disappearance ended so tragically this month when her remains were found inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Undaunted by the recent events, several hundred mourners swirled in emotion, crying at times, laughing at other moments as the service took on a distinctly celebratory mood.
Photographs of Robinson from her birth through high school, flashed on-screen while her mother, Carmilla Robinson, stepfather Jeff Rucker and teenage brother, JayQuan, greeted a steady line of guests.
Why Robinson disappeared so abruptly and how she died remain shrouded in mystery. Police consider both suspicious and a criminal investigation is ongoing.
During the service, Ophelia Jackson, who had known Taylor since birth, recalled an intelligent woman bound to succeed.
She said Robinson had a love for young children that was often returned and she studied early childhood development at Kenmore and North high schools.
“She had determination. She knew what she wanted,” Jackson told mourners. “She was a beautiful young lady and one day we will see her again.”
Jackson urged the audience not to grieve over the circumstances of Robinson’s death as she seemed to speak to whoever may have harmed her.
“You may have destroyed her, but I’ll tell you what: God got her soul,” she said.
Robinson’s grandmother, Lynette Brown, urged friends and family to remain strong in their faith that God will take care of Taylor and her loved ones.
“I’m angry and I’m hurt because Taylor didn’t deserve that,” Brown said. “But no matter where you’re at, Taylor, we’re going to make it together.”
Robinson’s remains are being examined by anthropologists in an effort to determine a manner and cause of death. Private investigators Tim Dimoff and Tom Fields, whose companies have been investigating the disappearance, said learning what happened to Robinson will be a challenge because of the decomposition of the remains.
Both men talked to reporters attending the service. The investigators said their work has narrowed the list of suspects to two or three individuals and that whoever killed Robinson likely had help taking her body to the park.
Akron police, however, have not given any recent updates on their work.
Meanwhile, Fields said it is important for the community to share what they know.
“We can’t have this type of thing, this type of predator, preying on our children,” he said.
A $7,000 reward for information is being offered through Summit County Crimestoppers Inc. Police say tipsters can remain anonymous and still collect the reward.
Tips can be made by texting TIPSCO along with the information about the case to the number 274637 (CRIMES) or by calling 330-434-COPS (2677).
Anyone with information also can call Akron detectives at 330-375-2490.