Mourners Remember Slain NC Woman's Smile, Jokes

The man accused of killing a police chief's daughter and dumping her body in a self-storage unit said Tuesday he would not fight his return to North Carolina, as mourners in her hometown remembered her smile and penchant for making people laugh. More than 500 people crammed into First Presbyterian Church near Charlotte to pay tribute to 23-year-old Valerie Hamilton. Friends remembered her joking nature, whether on the softball field, in the high school band, or at her job teaching children how to swim. If anyone was upset, she'd tell a joke to break the tension. "Making people smile was very important to her," said Beth Pinto, her high school guidance counselor and church youth director, who recalled a holiday event about six years ago when the teens were making gingerbread houses. Not Hamilton. She made a "shack" while smearing the peanut butter and marshmallow cream on her face to make a gingerbread person. "She was just full of life. If you gave her an assignment, she'd put her own twist on it," Pinto said. Hamilton was seen leaving a Charlotte tavern early last Wednesday morning with her accused killer, Michael Neal Harvey, 34, police said. It appears the woman left voluntarily with Harvey, and the Charlotte Observer reported that her friend Ashley Barton, 20, said Hamilton called her just after 3 a.m. and asked her to come over to join her and a friend in the hot tub at Valerie's apartment complex. Barton declined. By Thursday, friends and family grew worried when they didn't hear from Hamilton. Police said in a news release Tuesday that detectives found evidence of drug usage and witnesses indicated that although alive, Hamilton appeared to need immediate medical attention. The suspect did not seek professional medical attention for Hamilton after being prompted by several witnesses, police said. It wasn't immediately clear what the drug usage evidence was and a police spokesman refused to answer follow-up questions. Police said Harvey killed Hamilton and dump