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.”