GAITHERSBURG

Teen's Friends and Family Mark 'Immeasurable Loss'

Trevor Crites embraces a guest at the funeral of his sister Rachel, who was found dead Feb. 2.
Trevor Crites embraces a guest at the funeral of his sister Rachel, who was found dead Feb. 2. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
By Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Even during her funeral, Rachel Lacy Crites was inseparable from her best friend, Rachel Samantha Smith.

The two Rachels, as they have come to be known in the weeks since their joint disappearance and subsequent suicides, remain as united in death as they were in life -- at least to those who spoke yesterday at the hour-long memorial Mass for Crites. Mourners took their turns at a podium in a packed Catholic church in Gaithersburg and summoned the moments that will live on.

"I can still see the three of us laughing in hysterics . . . and I keep thinking that maybe somehow God made a mistake and they're really not gone," said one friend, her voice cracking and tears streaming down her face. "I can't find the strength without my two best friends."

Crites, 18, and Smith, 16, were found dead Feb. 2 in an apparent double suicide in the Crites family's car in Loudoun County, probably victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. Their bodies were discovered two weeks after their families had last seen them, a tragic ending to a massive search that had fanned across swaths of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Friends and relatives filed into the pews at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church yesterday to remember Crites. Many cried quietly as the Rev. Mark E. Brennan prayed that the curly-haired college freshman with a "bubbly personality" would be granted the "happiness of everlasting youth."

"You and we have suffered a sad and immeasurable loss of the two Rachels," Brennan said, adding that memories of the best friends would always be punctuated with many questions. "Every person is a mystery. . . . And we weren't inside their heads. It is best not to judge."

Troy Crites stood before the congregation, his only daughter's ashes in an urn to his right, and spoke in a weary-sounding voice about her depression. Her death, he said, has made the community at large "aware of the true dangers of depression and teen suicide."

"For both Rachels, let us not lose what we have gained," he said, adding that "death ends a life, not a relationship."

A friend, Christina Delgado, said Rachel Crites would never be gone. "She's with you in the car when you're driving and singing loudly with the radio. She's laughing with you when you drop toothpaste on your shirt in the morning. . . . The truth is, she's everywhere."

Crites, of Gaithersburg, and Smith, of Potomac, had been friends for a few years but were especially close the past year. Crites referred to Smith as her "guardian angel," Troy Crites said, because of the help and friendship the younger girl offered after Crites had tried to kill herself in March. Crites had been cutting herself and underwent treatment and medication, he said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.

In a note that Crites left behind -- dated Jan. 19, the day the two Rachels disappeared -- Crites referred again to her best friend, this time by her nickname, Pi. "Wherever I end up laying, whether buried or cremated, I want to stay with my true love, Pi, buried next to her," the letter said. "This is my choice. I'm sorry."

The girls were not buried side by side, however, but 18 miles apart -- Smith, last week at Garden of Remembrance Memorial Park in Clarksburg, and Crites at Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville.


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