Vigil Held for Slain Exchange Student

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – More than 100 people carrying candles held a vigil Friday in the Montana city where a 17-year-old German exchange student was gunned down in a homeowner’s garage.

The gathering for Diren Dede brought scores of people to the Fort Missoula soccer fields, where balloons with German and American colors were displayed for the somber memorial.

Dede was an all-state soccer player for Big Sky High School. He started playing soccer the day he arrived in Missoula in August and quickly made friends, said Kate Walker and Randy Smith, who hosted Dede during the school year.

The home of Markus Kaarma, the 29-year-old homeowner accused of shooting into his dark garage Sunday and killing Dede, had a new sign posted: “No Solicitors.”

Kaarma, his partner Janelle Pflager and their 10-month-old child have remained in the home since Kaarma posted $30,000 bond Monday. He declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter on one occasion when he stepped outside Wednesday and again on Friday.

A court hearing has been set for May 12 for Kaarma, who faces a charge of deliberate homicide. Court officials said Friday that date is subject to change.

Kaarma’s attorney, Paul Ryan, arrived at Kaarma’s home Friday for a private meeting. Ryan has said Kaarma plans to cite Montana’s self-defense laws in pleading not guilty to the charge.

Kaarma had been burglarized twice before, and he feared for his and his family’s life when motion sensors and a video monitor showed an intruder in his garage after midnight Sunday, Ryan said.

The intruder turned out to be Dede, who was to return to his home in Hamburg in June after the school year ended. The boy was unarmed, and authorities have declined to say what he was doing in the garage.

Missoula County deputy attorney Andrew Paul did not return a call for comment Friday.

Julie Reinhardt of the German consulate in San Francisco said the German government will be closely following the case against Kaarma. Prosecutors have told consulate officials the legal proceedings will be speedy and thorough.

“That was very reassuring for us,” she said.

The shooting has led to grief and support in the Missoula neighborhood where Dede was killed. Mailbox ribbons and a memorial that appeared on Smith and Walker’s lawn are ways the neighbors have expressed their solidarity.

“This neighborhood’s really hurting. It’s not something we ever expected to happen here,” Walker said.

Dede’s father sent his son’s body back to Germany on Wednesday. A memorial is planned in Hamburg before a burial in Turkey, where the family is originally from. Smith and Walker said they are planning to attend the funeral.

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