NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Purple ribbons drawing attention to domestic violence draped trees outside St. John the Evangelist Church on Thursday while hundreds of people inside attended the funeral of a college freshman who authorities say was beaten to death by her boyfriend.
Relatives of 18-year-old Alexandra Kogut of New Hartford said the community support, which has been evident in vigils, signs and an outpouring of purple, has sustained them.
"Every purple blouse, ribbon, Facebook post, balloon and even the tiniest purple painted fingernail reminds us of our dear Alex," read a funeral program note signed by the Kogut family.
Kogut's body was found early Saturday in her dorm room at the State University of New York College at Brockport, near Rochester, after her mother grew concerned and called campus police because she couldn't reach her.
Clayton Whittemore, 21, also of New Hartford, was arrested about an hour later at a Thruway rest stop 100 miles away. He pleaded not guilty to murder during an initial appearance in Sweden Town Court and was ordered held without bail.
Whittemore has yet to be arraigned on charges contained in a grand jury indictment returned Wednesday. Details of the indictment have not been made public.
Members of the New Hartford High School swim team, which Kogut captained before graduating in June, wiped tears away as they entered the church behind the casket.
The Rev. Paul Drobin said that if Kogut were there, she would tell those gathered, "Care for each other, love one another as I have loved you."
A photograph of Kogut's face was displayed in front of the church as her godparents, Victor Gerace and Kelly Kogut, wept and spoke on behalf of her parents, The Utica Observer-Dispatch reported.
"We are comforted by knowing Alex was at a very good time in her life — so happy and optimistic — because some people never achieve the happiness she had," Gerace read from their statement.
"Our message to you today is please don't let anger cloud your memories of Alex," Kelly Kogut read. "It's very important to us that you do not harbor any hatred. Our hope is that you will celebrate her love and her life, rather than remember the few tragic moments that took her from us."
Kogut was one month into her first year at college, majoring in communications, when authorities say she was killed during a visit by Whittemore, an accounting student at Utica College. Whittemore told state troopers he intentionally killed Kogut, according to a criminal complaint. No motive was given.