NAPLES – Not quite three years after she marched in a white graduation gown across the green grass behind Lake Region High School with the rest of her Class of 2008, Krista Dittmeyer returned to her old gymnasium inside a casket bedecked with flowers.

“All of us were proud and ready to get out of this school and start our lives on our own,” said classmate Hope Lanham, recalling that June day filled with hope and wide horizons. “She was an amazing person, a devoted mother and a loyal friend.”

Dittmeyer’s body was discovered Wednesday in a small pond at a New Hampshire ski resort, four days after she disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Her 14-month-old daughter, Aliyah, was found inside her mother’s black Nissan Sentra with its engine running and flashers on.

There have been no arrests and no announcement of an official cause of death.

“The investigation remains active and ongoing,” New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said by phone from Concord Monday afternoon. Local, state and federal agencies continue to work on the case.

Within the white walls, wooden floor and blue bleachers of the high school gym Monday afternoon, friends and family spoke of a vibrant and independent 20-year-old woman who worked as a waitress in South Portland. They painted a picture of a feisty, fun-loving and fiercely loyal single mother not afraid to speak her mind.

“Her personality was so strong and filled with energy,” said Lanham, who followed classmates Kayla Kirk, Nora Antonio and Jessica Corson to the lectern. “I loved her attitude. Krista told it like it was. If she didn’t like something, you would know it. And if you didn’t like her opinion, you were (still) going to hear it.”

Kayla Dittmeyer, 22, fought back tears to read a lengthy poem to her younger sister that began, “When tomorrow starts without me,” and ended, “Every time you think of me, I’m right here in your heart.”

Earlier, she noted the outpouring of support for her family, not only in Bridgton but from across the state and across the country. Television shows such as “Nancy Grace” on CNN and the website of “America’s Most Wanted” publicized her sister’s disappearance nationwide. Online condolences came in from Arizona, Wisconsin and South Africa.

“Who would have thought one young lady could have touched so many hearts?” Kayla said. “Everybody has asked what they can do for our family. Take a look around. This is all we really need, love and support.”

Kayla also struck a cautionary tone. Confusion lingers about how Krista’s body wound up in the pond at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway.

Last June, she was living in South Portland with her boyfriend, Kyle Acker, 26, when he was arrested on charges of trafficking in cocaine and marijuana and having a loaded firearm in the couple’s apartment. He has been in prison since January.

“It is very clear how many eyes have been opened,” Kayla said, “by the tragic loss of my sister. So please, I ask of each one of you, to really think about each thing you do. Never lie about where you’re going or what you’re doing. Keep in mind, one little thing can change your life.”

Amy Figoli, a friend and former neighbor, also spoke about the dangers of speculation and hearsay and urged those in attendance to respect Krista’s dignity and integrity.

Behind the lectern, doors remained open to the warm spring air across the parking lot to the grassy field where Dittmeyer marched with her cap and gown on that Saturday in 2008.

Monday’s service lasted 40 minutes. After the Rev. Don Mayberry of the First Congregational Church of South Paris recited Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”), her casket was wheeled out of the gym.

“Krista’s energetic life was just getting into full swing as a young adult,” Mayberry said. “It’s now been cut mysteriously short. There’s a great unknown as to what transpired, and I love Amy’s suggestion that we don’t try to figure it out, to let grace and unconditional love fill our space and fill our thoughts.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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