This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Her light pink casket adorned with pink, purple and white flowers, Destiny Ann Norton was remembered Saturday as a special spirit, a curious and feisty 5-year-old girl whose zest for life was infectious.
"She was a very brilliant little girl," her mother, Rachael Norton, told hundreds of mourners who turned out for the funeral 13 days after Destiny disappeared from her Salt Lake City home and prompted a huge search that ended when her body was found in a neighbor's basement.
"She had high dreams in life. She wanted to become a veterinarian. She loved everything - she loved animals, she loved nature, she loved people in general - she was a very expressive little girl."
Mourners - family members, friends, city and federal officials, and strangers - filled the sanctuary of an LDS Church at 700 South and 500 East, across the street from the Norton house. It was the same church that had served as headquarters for hundreds of volunteers who pitched in to help Salt Lake City police and FBI agents look for the girl after she suddenly disappeared about 8 p.m. July 16 from her parents' home.
"It was very gratifying to see us all come together to do that," Bill Silver, the Nortons' LDS bishop and a Salt Lake City detective who worked on Destiny's case, told funeralgoers. "This little girl, who we are here to memorialize today, had fantastic touch - the power to influence people's lives."
Prosecutors allege the Nortons' neighbor, Craig Gregerson, lured Destiny into his house, then suffocated her. Her body was found in a plastic container in the basement of the 20-year-old, who has been charged with felony child kidnapping and capital murder and could face the death sentence.
"At least she has gone somewhere that is better than [what] we can ever hope to give her in this world," said Jenniece Whitaker, a close family friend. "We need to be strong because I know she would want us to be. She was just that kind of kid."
Those who couldn't find a seat in the sanctuary found one in an adjoining gymnasium, where the 11 a.m. service was broadcast. Many of the mourners were strangers.
One man, whose 4-year-old daughter was abducted and murdered, wrote a poem about Destiny for the Norton family even though he has never met them.
A woman sitting near him, Deidre Tidwell, said she attended because she was nearly kidnapped herself as a young child. In a situation eerily similar to Destiny's, a man tried to lure her into his apartment.
"I'm 38 now, and I still remember that," she said, her eyes moist with tears.
Others in attendance included Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson; Police Chief Chris Burbank; FBI Special Agent Tim Fuhrman, who oversees the FBI in Utah, Idaho and Montana; and Elizabeth Smart, who survived an abduction in 2002, and her family.
John Flores, another close friend of the Nortons, told mourners Destiny was a bright child and a skilled boxer.
"She was really tough," he said. "And she loved to dance. She always loved to dance. It doesn't matter what kind of music you put on, she can dance to it."
Destiny was the glue that held her family, and the community, together, said Alex Alleman, who met the Nortons through church.
"I went over to the Nortons' home the night before her dad, Rick, got baptized. I knocked on the door and Rachael opened it, and I remember Destiny came running up to the door and looked up to me and she asked, 'Are we Mormons yet?' ''
The congregation erupted in laughter.
Alleman read a quote by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, one that was written in a card and mailed by a stranger to Destiny's father.
"The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world," Alleman read. "They were too pure, too lovely, to live on Earth."
Across the street from the church, meanwhile, candles continued burning at a shrine to Destiny outside her home. Some of those attending the memorial services also visited the shrine. The memorial included pictures of the girl, stuffed animals, dolls and flowers.
DeAnn Johnson, a Logan resident who said she was in Salt Lake City to help her son move, viewed the shrine with her teenage daughter and her friend.
"There were people up there thinking about her," Johnson said. "We had posters up there. It's a tragedy. It could happen anywhere."
At the close of the service, Silver told Destiny's family they will see their little girl again.
"My sons come in frequently with me before the [church] services have started, and I can always tell where they are by the 'pat-pat-pat' of their feet across the floor," he said. "For those of you who have had the privilege of hearing Destiny's feet trample across your floor, you will hear it again.
"And I believe that when we see her, we will see the same beautiful smile."
About 12:30 p.m., pallbearers carried Destiny's tiny casket out of the church and into a white hearse. Her parents were close behind.
One by one, family and friends - her father at the helm - shoveled a pile of dirt off a blue plastic tarp and dumped it around the base of a maple tree planted in the churchyard in Destiny's memory.
A funeral procession then took the casket and the family to Holladay Memorial Park, where the slain 5-year-old was laid to rest.
Members of Bikers Against Child Abuse laid a light blue, denim motorcycle vest on Destiny's coffin.
And a bagpiper played, his back to the Wasatch Mountains.