Slain UNLV student Paula Davis remembered at emotional vigil

Vigil for Paula Davis

Christopher DeVargas

Friends, family and neighbors gather at Desert Horizons Park to honor the memory of murder victim Paula Davis, a 19-year-old UNLV student, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019.

Friday, Sept. 13, 2019 | 2 a.m.

Despite her young age, Paula Marie Davis was well-rounded. She was a singer, dancer, actor and runner. She could play the piano and the flute. She was also a pingpong aficionado.

Eventually, Davis wanted to pursue a career in the FBI, but for now she was studying economics at UNLV. The 19-year-old was selflessly devoted to family, friends, God and strangers. She volunteered with Catholic Charities.

As a student at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, she wrote in an essay that when her life was over, she didn’t want to be known for her achievements.

“She wanted to be remembered for her kindness,” according to her running coach, who spoke Thursday night at a crowded vigil at Desert Horizons Park in North Las Vegas.

It’s there where a week ago today, Davis’ remains were discovered after her family had reported her missing. Her cellphone helped her family locate the grim scene. Witness statements and evidence led North Las Vegas Police to the suspected culprit: an ex-boyfriend who this week was jailed on a murder charge.

But the dozens of mourners Thursday weren’t there to focus on the agonizing details of her death, but on how she lived her life — with a permanent, contagious smile, they said through tears and laughs.

Speakers took to a microphone to share poignant memories of the amiable and charming girl who touched their lives.

On the ground next to bouquets of flowers, candles spelled her name. A black-and-white portrait showed Davis’ silky hair draped on her shoulders with sunglasses balanced atop her head. Of course, the good-hearted girl flashed a wide smile as the camera captured the moment.

There were those who knew her best, such as her mother, who in brief remarks thanked those in attendance.

Appraising the “RIP” posts he’d seen on social media, an uncle said that “maybe we should talk about living in peace instead. And I think Paula would want you all to be at peace, and to know that she’s going to be OK, and that we will, too.”

Sniffles sounded amid a moment of silence while mourners wiped tears away. Tenderly, a young boy spoke about Davis, his older sister. She would play with him, the soft voice said, she always helped him, and introduced him to new friends. “I learned a lot from her.”

A young man spoke about his interest in airplanes and how no one ever took it seriously, except Davis. He said she wanted to know everything about them as soon as she found out.

One by one, more anecdotes were shared.

And then there were those who’d briefly interacted with Davis or only knew about her. They lamented her death as well, speaking about her positive spirit.

“I think everyone could learn something about her life and how she lived it,” a cousin said.

As the candle flames extinguished, and melted wax was collected and placed in a box, speakers of all ages continued to approach the microphone to celebrate a life cut short.