GREAT BEND — The family of a missing Great Bend teen is moving forward with funeral plans, even though authorities have not formally identified a body found Tuesday as 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt.
Jennifer Schartz, spokeswoman for Great Bend public schools, said this afternoon that although the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has not revealed results of an autopsy being performed in Wichita, the family is preparing for a funeral.
In a statement from the district, it said Great Bend High School's "guidance counselors will become grief counselors in the coming days, weeks and even months, if necessary, as friends and classmates of Alicia DeBolt deal with her tragic death."
"We are extremely saddened by the event of Alicia's death," principal Tim Friess said in a statement. "It is such a tragedy. Our prayers are with the family."
Friess said Alicia's death and its impact on students will be addressed tonight at the freshman parent orientation meeting at the high school auditorium. Counselors will discuss how parents can help their children through this difficult time.
"This community cares for each of its children," Tom Vernon, USD 428 superintendent, said in a statement. "We are saddened that this has happened to one of our own.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the DeBolt family in this, their time of incredible sadness. Our focus now is on our students who have been affected by this tragedy."
Alicia was last seen leaving her home at 11 p.m. Saturday, the KBI said.
Relatives of the girl told KWCH-TV that Alicia left with a 19-year-old male friend. She had planned to attend a party and return home by midnight, relatives said.
Gavin Young, a spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General's Office, said investigators were continuing to work in the area where a body was found Tuesday. Authorities have not confirmed whether the body is that of Alicia's.
Young said identification of the body was not possible at the scene. He would not elaborate.
He said identification of the body will depend on dental identification, which will occur tonight. Until the dental identification occurs, he said authorities can't confirm the identity of the body.
He said no arrests have been made.
The body was found in Barton County, southwest of Great Bend, at an asphalt plant. The location is behind the Dundee Valley Cemetery.
The KBI is the lead agency on the investigation. The Great Bend Police Department and Barton County Sheriff's Office are among those assisting.
The Great Bend Tribune reported that Alicia was enrolled as a freshman at Great Bend High School, which began classes Monday. She was a cheerleader.
Her house, where she was last seen Saturday night, is a tidy older home off a main street in Great Bend. A sign near the front porch advertises child care. There is a rocking chair and swing on the front porch.
"It's a tragedy. It makes no sense at all," said Dradeana Cartwright, who lives next door to Alicia.
"She wouldn't just stay away."
Cartwright said she just found out that Alicia had made the cheerleading squad. She described her as having "the perfect personality, just outgoing and full of energy — perfect for a cheerleader."
Cartwright, 38, would see her practicing on a balance beam on a back porch. She said she has known Alicia since she was 12.
She also described her this way: "Just spunky and full of life," "a little spitfire," "a special kid."
"She loved fashion. She always looked adorable when she would go anywhere," Cartwright said.
"She just always had her head up."
A candlelight vigil, organized by Alicia's friends and family, has been set for 8 p.m. Sunday at Jack Kilby Square. An announcement was made at the high school inviting students to attend.