MINT HILL As questions persist about how a missing teenager died, friends and family of Kayla Campbell filled in some of the details about the 16-year-olds life.
Mint Hill police found Campbells body in a pond early Thursday, not far from where some of the girls belongings were found this week. Now, authorities are working to learn the circumstances around her death.
Although police and family members have said little publicly about what theyve discovered, Mint Hill police Lt. John Rowell said there was nothing that indicated foul play was involved.
Well wait for the results from the medical examiners office as to the cause of death, Rowell said. Campbell was first reported missing on Sunday.
Earlier this week, her parents told WCNC-TV that the teen suffered from depression. But in a Thursday conversation with the Observer, older brother Josh Campbell tempered that description.
We all get sad sometimes. Everybody does, and Kayla was no different, Josh Campbell said. As to any deeper meaning in that, I cant really say. I dont really know.
Classmates and family members remember Campbell as a bright, artistic person who loved photography, writing poems and making people laugh. Adopted from Russia when she was 2 years old, Campbell was the youngest of four children and doted on by her parents, family members said.
She was very loved, very, very loved, said second cousin Jennifer Gilmore, standing in the driveway of the Campbells Mint Hill home.
Gilmore, a Raleigh resident who drove to Mint Hill Thursday after learning of Campbells death, watched the large group offering condolences to family members on the Campbell familys front porch. Gilmore talked about her cousins inquisitiveness, recalling how the teen asked to borrow Gilmores camera during Thanksgiving two years ago.
Before she had her own camera, she was very curious about how it worked and wanted to borrow it, Gilmore said, smiling as she remembered. So she put it around her neck, and was snapping pics of all the kids.
Photography eventually became one of Campbells favorite pastimes, her brother said. But its a snapshot of her that stands out most to him.
In it, she is outside, Josh Campbell said. Shes looking up at the sky. Her hair is twirling in the wind.
It embodies her, he said.
Pins and ribbons at school
Josh Campbell said his family was together when they learned of her death.
Mint Hill police discovered her body around 12:15 a.m. Thursday. Authorities had drained the pond on Sable-Cap Road hours earlier as part of their search for the teen, who was reported missing after she failed to return home Sunday evening.
After the discovery, authorities moved media away from the scene.
Unfortunately, we didnt get the outcome we were hoping for, Josh Campbell said.
As news of the teens death spread, counselors were on hand at Independence High School, where Campbell was a member of the indoor track and cross-country teams and a junior enrolled in the Academy of International Studies.
Many of her friends didnt show up to class Thursday, classmate and friend Erica Jackson said. Some of the 11th-graders in the Academy of International Studies with Campbell made pins out of orange and yellow ribbons, her favorite color, and wore them in her memory.
As Jackson fiddled with her pin at the end of the school day, she said Campbell was an amazing poet who often goofed off in class just to make people laugh. Jackson, also 16, grew up with Campbell and has been visiting their house to offer help all week.
Campbells body was found about a quarter-mile from her home, in a neighborhood not far from the intersection of Interstate 485 and N.C. 51 (Blair Road), south of Albemarle Road. It was a pond where the teen enjoyed coming, to take photos and meet with friends, according to her family.
So close to home
She had left her home on Dartmoor Place about 2:30 p.m. Sunday and told her parents she would return around 5:30 p.m.
Rowell said her bicycle helmet was found near the pond Sunday evening, after her parents reported her missing. Monday morning, her bicycle and cellphone were found nearby.
Mint Hill police, with the assistance of the Charlotte Fire Department, Mint Hill Fire Department, and West Stanly Fire and Rescue, searched the pond Monday but didnt find anything.
The Charlotte Fire Departments dive team did everything they could, Rowell said. Visibility in that water was only about a foot.
On Tuesday, there were two ground searches covering about 8 square miles around the pond.
We also checked her cellphone records and her computer, but there was nothing that steered us away from the pond, Rowell said. It kept coming back to where we found her personal items.
So officials began draining the pond off Pumpkin Way Drive around 1 p.m. Wednesday hoping to find evidence leading to Campbell.
At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mint Hill police said they planned to actively search the partly drained pond through the night. A raft was needed to scour part of the pond, and authorities worked through the cold, rainy weather, using searchlights set up on towers to illuminate the pond, which is in a dark and relatively secluded area.
Neighbors occasionally stopped at the scene to check on developments. One neighbor said water in parts of the pond was 10 to 12 feet deep.
The first indication that searchers might have found the missing teen came about 1:15 a.m. Thursday, when Mint Hill police asked a group of media representatives and a few residents to move away from the search scene.
Around midday Thursday, neighbors began assembling a memorial on Pumpkin Way Lane, not far from the pond. Among those visiting the scene were Lorie Helms Hyman, whose daughter Miranda knew Campbell from their days together at Mint Hill Middle School, and Mindi Gerrard, a neighbor of the Campbell family.
Miranda said Kayla was sweet, innocent not the kind of person who would disappear, said Hyman, who brought a teddy bear to the memorial.
Gerrard had organized a prayer vigil near the pond Tuesday night and said the Campbell family had tried to remain positive.
Fighting back tears, Gerrard said, My children wanted to know how this could happen. Its so sad ... so close to home.
Ive been here 25 years, and weve never seen anything like this around here, she said.
Rowell said a team of police, including a chaplain, went to the Campbells house early Thursday to deliver the news.
You really feel bad for the parents, he said. This is so hard.
WCNC-TV and Observer researcher Maria David contributed