Coaches and family friends are remembering 11-year-old Dora Betancourt as a kind, bubbly girl who loved cheerleading and sports.
They're also struggling to comprehend the Mundelein fifth-grader's violent death, which authorities say came Tuesday at the end of a kitchen knife wielded by her 14-year-old half-sister.
"I don't know where to begin," said Mundelein resident Christine Coleman, one of Dora's cheerleading coaches.
Dora's identity has not been released by authorities, but it was included in her parents' divorce records and confirmed by people who knew her. The Daily Herald is not publishing Dora's half-sister's name because she is charged as a juvenile.
A student at St. John Lutheran School in Libertyville, Dora always had a smile on her face, Coleman said.
"Nothing could get her down," said Coleman, who had known Dora since she was about 3 years old.
Dora particularly enjoyed cheerleading competitions and the trophies she received at the events. Last month, her team won a state championship for her age group.
"She was very proud of it," said Tami Forman, director of cheerleading for the Lake County Stallions organization.
Forman, a Mundelein High School and Fremont Township board member, described Dora as "a sassy little fifth-grader" who also enjoyed making rainbow-colored bracelets for her friends.
Dora also played baseball and softball.
"She was one of those kids who loved everything she did," Forman said.
Dora was friends with Coleman's daughter. Coleman recalled the night Dora and her half-sister slept over at her house, a few years ago.
It was Christmastime, and Dora and her half-sister wanted to decorate the Coleman's Christmas tree. They did, Coleman said -- and they were invited to come back and do it again whenever they wanted.
"She just always was a happy, go-lucky girl," Coleman said.
Members of Dora's cheerleading team gathered Wednesday night to celebrate their friend's life.
The goal was not to mourn but to "go over some of the good memories," said Mundelein resident Jennifer Janis, whose daughters are involved with the team.
Dora's half-sister has been charged in juvenile court with first-degree murder. She appeared in court Wednesday for a hearing and remains in custody.
Dora was killed in her bedroom Tuesday morning. She was stabbed more than 30 times, and the kitchen knife used in the attack was found at the scene, police said.
Dora was alone with her half-sister when she was killed, authorities said. The older girl was arrested by police at the home.
She killed Dora because she felt unappreciated, authorities said.
Still, adults who knew the girls say Dora's half-sister cared deeply about the younger girl.
"She adored Dora," said Forman, who often drove the girls to cheerleading practice. "She was like a mini-mom to her."
Forman described the older half-sister as having "a heart of gold." Like Coleman and other adults who knew the girls, she was shocked by the murder.
"They were both such wonderful children," she said.