Simple white casket for young woman shot by ex-boyfriend on Alberta highway

The Canadian Press ~ staff The Guardian
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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – A young woman gunned down by her jealous ex-boyfriend on the side of a dark southern Alberta highway was remembered Wednesday as a vibrant and fearless role model.

Tabitha Stepple, 21, was one of four young people shot last week by Derek Jensen, just north of the town of Claresholm, before he killed himself. One woman survived.

More than 850 mourners at Stepple's funeral in Lethbridge watched as Stepple's simple white casket, covered in flowers, was wheeled into the church. Her pet terrier, Mya, was an honorary pallbearer.

"Tabitha was incredibly full of life. She carried herself well," said her sister Teresa Kleinfeld, her brothers Nelson and Trevor Stepple, standing one on each side of her. "She stood up for herself and for what she knew to be right and what she believed in.

"She was many things to many different people."

Her mother Renae Stepple wept as she read from an inspirational poem.

"I'm everything you feel, see or hear. My spirit is free, but I'll never depart as long as you keep me alive in your heart," read the poem.

"I loved my Tabitha so much. I just want to thank you all for coming here to be with Tabitha," she said.

Pastor Ian Lawson, one of two ministers officiating, acknowledged that many people would want to know how such violence could cut short such a promising life.

"Any attempts to answer will seem hollow and trivial at a time like this. The questions are real and they are appropriate," he said.

Mya sat quietly in the arms of a family member throughout the service. Stepple's cousins performed three lullabies that her mother used to sing to her.

"We live in a dark world and the events of the past week have been a powerful reminder of that darkness in this community," added Pastor Steve Bateman, who urged the family not to lose faith.

He also asked that prayers be said for victims Tanner Craswell, 22, and his 20-year-old friend Mitch MacLean - two promising baseball players from Prince Edward Island, who had moved to Lethbridge to hone their skills. They were on their way to the airport to return home for the holidays when they died.

Bateman said he hoped that Shayna Conway, who remains in hospital after surgery for gunshot wounds, makes a full recovery. She and Stepple were driving the two players to the airport when the car was rammed from behind by Jensen.

He was not mentioned during the service.


... More on this story throughout the evening and in tomorrow morning's edition of The Guardian.


Geographic location: LETHBRIDGE, Alberta, Southern Alberta Claresholm Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Chelle Brown
    December 22, 2011 - 09:15

    I cried yesterday reading this & Ms. Steeple's obituary in an Alberta newspaper and crying as I read this again. Such a beautiful poem read by a Mom who's heart was broken. Hope the Craswell - MacLean famiies & their friends, can find a sense of solace in these words :- "They are everything you feel, see or hear. Their spirits are free, but they'll never depart as long as you keep them alive in your heart, Rest in peace dear children, rest in peace."

  • Saddened
    December 22, 2011 - 07:11

    As a parent and father I am truly saddend by this whole event. Reading this article brings tears to my eyes as does imagining what it must be like to lose a child like this. My deepest sympaties to all the families.

  • Mary Dicks
    December 22, 2011 - 01:03

    What a devastating tragic these families have to go through. Words can not express how shaken we all feel. I pray to God that he will carry these families throughout this awful ordeal and give them strength and courage to get through it all. God Bless you all! You will be in my thoughts & prayers.

  • jeff
    December 21, 2011 - 22:50

    RIP Tabitha. The heavens have an angel way too early.

  • Anton
    December 21, 2011 - 20:49 MISS TABITHA STEPPLE of Lethbridge passed away tragically on December 15, 2011 at the age of 21 years. A beautiful baby girl was born to Renae and Randall Stepple at St. Michael’s Hospital in Lethbridge, not long before the destruction of the old hospital. Tabitha was an adorable baby, full of laughs, cries and “especially funny” laughing fits. She spent a lot of days with grandma Stepple as a toddler where she learned to be very polite and well mannered at an early age. Always asked if she could be excused from the table before running off to play. Tabitha was a role model to us all, very mature for her age, dealt with life in an admirable way, wouldn’t show fear, and a mommy’s girl and daddy’s girl. Tabitha is survived by her father Randall Stepple, her mother Renae Stepple, sister Teresa (Ryan) Kleinfeld; her two brothers Trevor (Carmen) Stepple and Nelson Stepple; grandparents Lawrence and Norma Turner; as well as numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her sister Miranda, brother Jason and grandparents John and Evelyn Stepple. A Funeral service (was/cb) held at 1:00PM on Wednesday December 21, 2011 at the EVANGELICAL FREE CHURCH, 4717-24 Ave South, Lethbridge, AB. Internment followed in Mountain View Cemetery. A trust account will be set up in Tabitha’s name to assist the family at Scotia Bank 425 - 13 Street North, Lethbridge, AB T1H 2S1. Any Extra funds will be donated to a Scholarship Or to a Charity. cb/ TABITHA STEPPLE God love her and RIP beautiful woman. Ms. Conway is a very fortunate woman.

  • Sympathy
    December 21, 2011 - 18:28

    I did not know the people involved nor their families, but simply looking on I can't imagine the pain these people must have and be going through. May the families have the courage and strength to get through this difficult time,

  • Tracy Bergman
    December 21, 2011 - 17:50

    So sad that Tanner, Mitch and Tabitha had to die because of someones jealousy. I am so sorry for all your losses. Thinking of you all