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Perham community gathers Thursday night to honor Belmonte

Classmates and friends of slain Perham sophomore Tabitha Belmonte gathered Thursday night for a candlelit memorial. Photo by Chris Happel for the Focus.

More than 100 friends, classmates and family members gathered under a cloudless sky on Thursday night for a candlelit memorial on the front lawn of the Perham High School to honor slain sophomore Tabitha Belmonte.

Perham High School social worker Courtney Rooney led the vigil. Rooney said she knew Belmonte well and looked forward to Monday morning meetings with her. Rooney said she hoped Belmonte's spirit could help her make sense of the tragedy.

Good friends and sophomores Leah Wuebben and Tiffany Washek helped organize Thursday's vigil.

"I think it's really nice everyone came together," Wuebben said. "It's really hard when something like this happens to someone."

Trees outside the school have been decorated with rainbow colors because Belmonte could never pick a favorite color, Washek said Thursday.

"She loved every single color," Washek said. "She was just a really open, wonderful person."

Mary Weaver, who knew both Belmonte and the father of her daughter, 17-year-old Dylan Cox, said she is happy with what Perham school officials have done but said she hopes surrounding communities will also take steps to help educate about teen depression and suicide.

Weaver said it was not surprising to see the small community of Perham coming together in the wake of such a tragedy.