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Hundreds honor 17-year-old killed in wreck

PATTERSON -- Korressa "Korre" Mitchell was a vibrant, popular teenager who wore funky socks and bright-colored head- bands, loved being the center of attention and unapologetically "marched to the beat of her own drum," her friends recalled during a Thursday night candlelight vigil.

The 17-year-old cheerleader and senior at Patterson High School was killed early Saturday in a car crash near West Main Street and Jennings Road, east of Patterson. About 300 people gathered on the lawn outside of the high school for the vigil, where they shared stories, prayers and songs in remembrance of Korre.

A fellow cheerleader, Bethany Jackson, told the crowd how the team recently tried a particularly difficult stunt. No matter how many times they fell, Korre refused to give up.

"Korre was so determined, and we finally got it right. She was so strong, as a person and as a cheerleader," Bethany said.

Korre always found a way to make people laugh, another friend recalled. Even when standing in the outfield during softball games, she would come up with songs or funny names for the other players to keep everyone entertained.

"I will never forget her smile or jokes," Bethany said.

Liz Brooks, 17, described Korre as a pretty girl who "didn't turn heads, she broke necks."

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the accident, which occurred about 3:15 a.m. after Mitchell's 2000 Ford Expedition veered across the center line in front of an oncoming car, swerved onto the dirt shoulder, then overturned several times before catching fire. Authorities are awaiting results of a toxicology report to see whether alcohol played a role in the crash, CHP spokesman Tom Killian said.

Korre and her passenger, Jessyca Lopez, 18, were returning to Patterson from a party when the crash occurred, Killian said. Lopez, who was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries, was intoxicated when officers arrived, Killian said. Korre was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected.

"We're hoping that (Korre) was the one who made the right choice and was the designated driver, because at that time of night she could have possibly fallen asleep.

"We would like anybody at that party to call the CHP because we will do an investigation to determine who provided the alcohol to underage kids," Killian added. "Everyone at that party has to take some responsibility if she was under the influence because they allowed her to leave."

About 500 people attended a funeral for Korre on Thursday morning, said family friend Pat Dooley. He thanked the crowd on behalf of Korre's mother for their support.

"This is a terrific town and a terrific community," Dooley said.

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

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