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'She was beautiful': Candlelight vigil held in Laurel honoring woman killed in hit-and-run

Vigil for Kassi McColley
A corner of a sign from the vigil featuring a photo of Kassi
Posted at 10:38 PM, Feb 17, 2024

LAUREL — Saturday evening in Laurel, a candlelight vigil was held for a young woman who was recently killed in a hit-and-run.

It was a place for loved ones to unite and grieve the loss of Kassi McColley.

A large crowd gathered at Kassi's vigil
A large crowd gathered at Kassi's vigil

"She was very unique. She didn’t need to be loud to make a splash," said Mary McColley, Kassi's mother, on Saturday. "She could just be calm and walk in a room and do what she needed to do. And people just gravitated towards her."

The vigil took place at 2700 E Main Street in Laurel, near the area where Kassi's body was discovered.

Speaking with family and friends, it's clear Kassi was a kind, intelligent young woman.

“I think one of the biggest things is just how giving she was. She was a very, very giving person. If Christmas time would come around, and if there was a new boyfriend or a new friend that was joining us that year, she always made sure there was a gift given (to them)," Kataraina McColley, Kassi's sister, said on Saturday. "(She) always included anybody. Whether (they were) an acquaintance, or maybe even somebody that she disliked in a certain manner. She always made them feel special and included."

Kataraina (left) Mary (right) Kimber (bottom left)
Kataraina (left) Mary (right) Kimber (bottom left)

Mary explained how Kassi was special in many ways.

“She was just a really smart girl. She went to a private school...It’s for really, a little bit higher academics...She always had the brain we always wanted. She was very articulate and intellectual."

Young loved ones gathered at the vigil expressed their heartbreak over Kassi's untimely death:

"(Kassi was) one of my best cousins ever. God bless Kassi," Julian Harris said. "I wish she could be down here with us.”

Julian Harris
Julian Harris

“Kassi was beautiful. She was really nice. I remember when she always came to see our grandma," said Aaliyah Rascon. "I love her and we will all miss her. She was just loving and caring."

"Kassi was a great cousin," Michael Beatty said. "She was very pretty. She would always have a beautiful voice. I will never forget Kassi."

"She was very kind and genuine," said Elijah Williams. "She was a really nice person."

Michael (left) Elijah (center) Aaliyah (right)
Michael (left) Elijah (center) Aaliyah (right)

For the McColley family, the past few weeks have been a nightmare following Kassi's death.

“As sisters, you know, siblings fight here and there. But when we weren’t butting heads, we were really, really close," Kataraina said. "(She) was like my right hand. So it’s hard."

According to the family, Kassi was fleeing a domestic violence situation on Jan. 31, walking towards a truck stop to escape. Loved ones were unable to make contact with her following a phone call that was cut short after Kassi stated she was being followed by her abuser.

Over the next few days, there were no signs of Kassi—until Feb. 4, when her mother discovered her body on the side of the road.

"We just want change for the future. So nobody else has to go through this," Mary said. "And certainly no other mothers have to find their own daughter."

Kassi leaves behind an 8-year-old daughter, Kimber.

Kimber at the vigil
Kimber at the vigil

The family is still searching for answers and said they are growing frustrated with the handling of the case.

"We need help from the police departments. We shouldn’t have to beg," Mary said. "Mistakes happen in every industry, but we want to make sure they don’t. There’s strict protocol on missing persons and we want to make sure they’re followed. And domestic violence (protocols)."

MTN News reached out to the Laurel Police Department Friday morning requesting an interview or a statement but has not heard back.

According to Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder, the case has been turned over to the County Attorney’s Office.

Her family said they have big plans for the future, hoping to ensure what happened to Kassi doesn’t happen again.

"We would like everybody to read Kassi’s side of the story and what we’re trying to change here. It’s a few things that could have maybe, possibly, saved her life," Mary said. "The GoFundMe is not just a fundraiser to raise money. We don’t need it in our home. But it is to raise awareness and change... (We're) organizing things with some other parents that you will soon know to be very big names around here that also lost their children."

A corner of a sign from the vigil featuring a photo of Kassi
A corner of a sign from the vigil featuring a photo of Kassi

They're advocating for missing persons and victims of domestic violence.

"We’ll be talking soon and letting you know what our next moves are with Kassi,” said Mary.

Ultimately, the family wants justice for Kassi.

"She could shine into anybody in their darkest days and they would just open up and light up when she was around," Mary said. "She was amazing.”

To learn more about the hit-and-run, click here.

To view the GoFundMe, click here.