Steven Butler III Vigil

The family of Steven Butler III, including his father, Steven Butler Jr. (middle), was surrounded by hundreds of community members during Monday night’s candlelight vigil after the 14-year-old was found dead last week.

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CHAMPAIGN — Hundreds of community members gathered around Willis Park on Monday evening to honor Steven Butler III, a 14-year-old who went missing on Thursday evening and was found dead the following morning.

They learned from his father and sixth-grade teacher about a kid who loved to read and build cardboard forts and hoped to become a chef one day.

“Steven wasn’t an average kid,” said his father, Steven Butler Jr. “He had a special, special heart that was full of love. … Steven loved his brothers and sisters, and Steven and I had an inseparable bond. I was very fortunate to be the one to teach him about life and the lessons I’ve learned.”

The 14-year-old’s family sat under a tent as community members gathered around, while a neighbor grilled hot dogs and hamburgers at the event, which was hosted by Missing Persons Awareness Network.

“He didn’t deserve this,” his father told the crowd. “No person deserved this … I can’t tell you how much it means to me and my family that you guys are all out here.”

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