SARASOTA, Fla. – Carlie Brucia (search) was a typical 11-year-old: She loved roller-skating, hanging out with friends and singing in the chorus and dreamed of being a pop star like her idol Jennifer Lopez.
Carlie was mourned Friday after authorities discovered her body near a church parking lot, ending a five-day search for the blond sixth-grader whose kidnapping outside a car wash was captured by a surveillance camera and beamed throughout the nation.
She was remembered as someone who always shared warm hugs with friends, respected her parents and teachers and loved music — singers such as Lopez and rappers Nelly (search) and 50 Cent (search). She had a 6-year-old half brother, a 10-year-old stepbrother and a cat named Charlie.
"She was loving and caring. She doesn't like to see other people hurt. She'd be really crying if this was one of us or someone else she knows," said Tiffany Meeks, a close friend at school who placed flowers Friday along a memorial at the car wash. "It's just hard to talk about."
"Every time we passed in the hall, we'd give each other hugs. Even when she was mad at me and I was mad at her, which was hardly ever," Meeks said.
Carlie had hung out with friends at a roller rink last Friday night and filled her days with school, shopping at the mall and chats on the phone. In recent weeks, Carlie had been trying to learn French.
"She'd come up to me and speak these words I didn't even know," Meeks said.
Well-liked by her fellow sixth-graders and older schoolmates at McIntosh Middle School, Carlie was a "shining light" who was polite to her teachers and parents and served as "an advocate for every child," said her principal, Robert Hagemann.
"You could see Carlie in the hallways, in the media center, in the cafeteria and the classroom. You could never miss Carlie and now we are going to greatly miss her," said McIntosh Middle School principal Robert Hagemann.
Neighbors said the family was devastated by the news. Her stepfather, Steve Kansler, in an interview Tuesday, described Carlie as a vivacious, bubbly youngster who enjoyed being with her friends.
Kansler said the family often watched crime shows such as "America's Most Wanted" and "Forensic Files."
"She was always saying, `That would never happen to me,"' Kansler said.
Carlie's friends said returning to school will be difficult following a tumultuous week — and it will not be the same without Carlie being there.
"In math class, I'm going to be looking back," said friend Sierra Bakara, "and seeing if she's sitting there."