GREAT BEND — Whatever happened to Alicia DeBolt after she disappeared Saturday night should not have happened, Tiffany Serna said Wednesday.
Emotion strained Serna's voice. As the 38-year-old spoke, her 15-year-old daughter, Destiny Degenhardt, looked at her with tears. They paused to speak outside Alicia's house after bringing a fried chicken dinner to the teen's family — a family in shock, a family in need of privacy, Serna said.
Alicia was 14. She and Destiny were friends, so close in size they shared cheerleader uniforms.
They said Alicia was excited about going to a school-related banquet Sunday night. But she never made it.
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Many people around town, including school officials, were presuming that she was dead, even though there was not yet official confirmation from authorities.
Attorney General Steve Six is scheduled to discuss the case today at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's regional office in Great Bend.
Whatever happened to Alicia should not have happened, especially in a small town in the middle of Kansas, said Serna, a lifelong Great Bend resident.
"This is a town where everybody knows everybody and everybody looks out for everybody," she said.
According to initial reports, Alicia went to a party late Saturday night but never returned. On Tuesday, the day after she was supposed to begin her freshman year at Great Bend High, authorities found a body several miles southwest of town.
They said, without elaborating, that it couldn't be identified at the scene. They were waiting on a dental examination Wednesday night from an autopsy in Wichita to confirm whether the body is Alicia's.
"For something to happen in a town like this... it's just absolutely shocking," Serna said.
The Great Bend school district issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that grief counselors were being made available for Alicia's classmates to "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."
"The students all believe that she is gone," said district spokeswoman Jennifer Schartz. She said the family is moving forward with funeral plans.
The family has declined to comment.
The district statement said that "Alicia's death and its impact on students" would be addressed at the freshman parent orientation Wednesday night in the high school auditorium. Counselors were planning to discuss how parents can help their children through this difficult time.
On Wednesday, investigators focused on interviews "with a number of individuals," said Gavin Young, a spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General's Office. Investigators also were continuing to work in the area where the body was found Tuesday, an asphalt plant outside the city limits.
Young said no arrests have been made.
Alicia was last seen leaving her home at 11 p.m. Saturday, said the KBI, which is leading the investigation. Great Bend police and Barton County sheriff's officers also were involved.
Relatives of the girl told KWCH-TV that Alicia was last seen leaving home with a 19-year-old male friend. She had planned to attend a party and return home by midnight, relatives said.
Alicia's house is a tidy older home off a main street. A sign near the front porch advertises child care. There is a rocking chair and swing on the front porch.
"It makes no sense at all," said Dradeana Cartwright, who lives next door to Alicia.
Cartwright said she just found out that Alicia had made the freshman cheerleading squad. She described her as having "the perfect personality, just outgoing and full of energy — perfect for a cheerleader."
Cartwright, 38, said she would see Alicia practicing on a balance beam on a back porch.
She 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.
"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.
Serna, the woman who brought the food to Alicia's family, said the teen's disappearance has made her suspicious and concerned for her daughter's safety.
She said she will be even more strict with her daughter, Destiny.
"You just never know who you can trust anymore," Serna said.
Asked whether she was scared, 15-year-old Destiny said, "Kinda. I'm, like, still in shock. I don't know what to think."