Friends plan vigil for Patterson girl who died in car crash

PATTERSON -- Friends of a 17-year-old "free spirit" who was killed in a car crash Saturday will hold a candlelight vigil in her memory tonight.

Korressa "Korre" Mitchell was a senior at Patterson High School, where she played softball and was a cheerleader. The crash occurred Saturday about 3:15 a.m., after Mitchell's 2000 Ford Expedition crossed the center lane, swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle head- on, veered onto a dirt shoulder and overturned several times, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP said Mitchell was ejected from the sport utility vehicle, which burst into flames after it stopped near West Main Street and Jennings Road, east of Patterson. The vehicle's passenger, Jessyca Lopez, 18, of Turlock, suffered minor injuries. Mitchell was not wearing a seat belt.

Mitchell's former cheerleading coach, Teresa Valentine, said Wednesday that the teen- ager was a "loving and caring" person who didn't judge others.

"She saw people for the best part of who they were," she said. "Even if someone hurt her feelings, she would forgive immediately and get over that. She didn't hold grudges or put anything out there except fun, happiness, love and joy."

Valentine said her daughter, Gwen Valentine, was part of a close-knit group of Mitchell's friends. The teenagers wrote a statement for the media after Mitchell's death that partially read: "Korre was the kind of girl who could walk in the room and have all eyes on her. She was beautiful inside and out and was full of life."

A candlelight vigil for Mitchell will be held on the Seventh Street lawn of Patterson High School today around 8 p.m., after the freshman football game. Mitchell's funeral is today at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Patterson.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.