Rachael Manwarren tries on the T-shirt she will wear to the memorial services for her sister, Marissa Manwarren, on Friday. Marissa's face peers out from the black background, surrounded by her favorite Bible verse, Psalms 55:22:
"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."
Marissa Manwarren, 17, was shot in the head at Beverly Beach State Park in Lincoln County sometime last week. Police recovered her body on Wednesday, June 14.
Her boyfriend, Cevelino Capuia, 19, and another friend, Shawn Ryan Womack, 22, have been charged with aggravated murder and robbery in with the deaths of two men. However, police have not charged anyone in Manwarren's death.
Police believe she was killed after Capuia was arrested in Beaverton following a convenience store robbery on Sunday, June 11, and before Womack was taken into custody in Corvallis on Tuesday, June 13.
Police also arrested Jasmine Cooke Lesniak, Womack's girlfriend, and charged her with hindering prosecution and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
Marissa's death, said state Sen. Margaret Carter, D-Portland, leaves a space in her large family, even though Marissa had been with them only a year. Carter, who also is vice president of corporate affairs for The Skanner, said she considered Marissa and Rachael, who had been in a foster home most of their lives, to be her surrogate granddaughters. Marissa called Carter "grammy."
"She would put her arms around me and hug me and say, 'Thank you for being my grammy. I always wanted a family,'" Carter recalled. "The one thing Marissa got before she died was knowing what a family was like."
Marissa had followed Rachael to Carter's home after Carter had befriended Rachael two years ago. She had been a roommate of Carter's granddaughter, Shayla, while the girls attended Lane Community College in Eugene. Somehow, Rachael had lost contact with her foster family who had moved and left no forwarding address and no phone number, and she had no place to stay at Christmas. Shayla invited her to spend the holidays with her family. She has been with Carter's family ever since.
A year later, Marissa, who reportedly had been sent to live with Rachael by her foster family, appeared at Carter's home, and Carter took her in, too. She eventually lived with Carter's daughter, Dietrich.
"She was funny; she had the most gorgeous smile," Rachael said. "She was trying to help her boyfriend straighten up his life."
Marissa was a "typical teenager," Rachael said. "She wanted to go out and party, to be with her friends and to sleep in all the time."
But Marissa also attended Wilson High School and Portland Community College, Rachael said. Her goal was to be a plastic surgeon someday.
Six months ago, Marissa met Capuia. Rachael believes it was his talent at playing soccer, and Marissa's interest in soccer and sports in general, that brought the two together.
Capuia was a religious young man and Marissa had gone to church with him, Rachael said. "He was a really nice and polite guy."
Yet Rachael tried to talk her sister out of being with Capuia so much. She had seen him hanging out with his friends, and she didn't like the way they acted. "I knew one of the boys, and I knew they weren't good for him. I was telling her she could do better than him," Rachael said.
Rachael had always tried to protect Marissa, as well as another brother and sister. When they left their home in Louisiana with their mother 11 years ago, Rachael promised her maternal grandmother that she would look after her siblings. After they arrived in Long Beach, Calif., they were taken from their mother, who had been only 15 when she gave birth to Rachael, and put into foster care. Eventually, they moved in with Roger and Donna Manwarren, who had three children of their own, and, with Rachael and her siblings, 16 children in all.
Rachael said the Manwarrens told her they had adopted the children, but Rachael said she never saw any adoption papers.
Since she had been taken away, Rachael had talked to her mother only once. She was told that her mother died of breast cancer.
When Marissa came to live with her, Rachael tried to watch over her, to keep her promise to her grandmother. But it was difficult.
"It was hard to be her mom and her sister at the same time," Rachael said. "That's when she went to live with my grandmother's (Margaret Carter's) daughter."
Rachael saw Marissa on Memorial Day, and Marissa told her she thought she was pregnant. "She really loved Capuia and thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with him," Rachael said. Later, the medical examiner told Rachael that Marissa was not pregnant.
The last time Rachael heard from her sister was by a telephone message on June 7, just a few days before Marissa died. She had tried to return her call but wasn't successful.
Rachael said she thinks Marissa may have found out about the first murder — that of Chai Taphom, 28, who was shot several times in an alley at the corner of Northeast Davis Street and 111th Avenue, about a mile from a 24-hour adult video store that he had just visited. Police believe he was taken from the store's parking lot on May 13 and forced to drive to the alley.
When Capuia was arrested, he was driving Taphom's car, a late-model Honda.
The second murder occurred on May 28. Michael Burchett also was shot, this time in the video store's parking lot. Ballistic tests indicate the two men were shot with the same gun. Womack was driving Burchett's car — also a Honda — when he was arrested, and Jasmine Lesniak was a passenger.
On Sunday, June 11 — the day before Capuia was arrested — Marissa sent him a message through MySpace.com, a Web site popular with teenagers who leave messages for each other to read. She told Capuia she loved him and that she was sorry "about what happened."
"You know how I feel right now," she wrote. "I just want you to know that I'm lucky to have a person like you in my life, but you just need to think about your actions because sometimes your actions can cause you to get in bigggg … trouble if you know what I mean. I love you and I'm going to pray for both of us my love."
Margaret Carter says her phone has not stopped ringing since Marissa's death was reported on television news broadcasts. Once the memorial service is over and the shock wears off, Carter said she wants to visit Capuia and Womack in prison.
"I want to find out what led them to this point, what went so wrong in the lives of these boys that would make them turn to such a vicious life that could make them rob and kill," Carter said.
"I think we can help other young people whose lives get topsy-turvy like that. I really do."
Rachael said she has forgiven the young men, but she still fights the tears.
"It is very sad that they took my sister away because all we knew and had was each other. I have come to peace to forgive them for what they did, but that will never bring my sister back."
The memorial service, at 2 p.m. Friday, is being handled by Cox & Cox Funeral Chapel.