HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - As Hattiesburg Police continue to investigate a 'heinous crime,' the community is remembering the 'wonderful spirit' taken.
Deborah McGee was found dead in her Dewey Street home Sunday afternoon. HPD announced the death investigation turned into a homicide investigation Tuesday afternoon.
Family, friends and coworkers of McGee joined together at Antonelli College in Hattiesburg Wednesday morning, where the 63-year-old had taught for eleven years.
"To some of us she was 'mom,' to some of us she was 'auntie,' but for everybody she was loved," said Lauren James, an instructor and coworker of McGee. "Initially it was just the shock of it, sadness, a loneliness, we feel empty without her here. There's a hole here without her here," James said.
Campus President Steve Bryant said classes were canceled Monday after the news of McGee's death.
"The instructors, the faculty, and staff here were just torn to pieces, so nobody could go to class," said Bryant. "We gave everybody the opportunity to go home, but nobody did. We all just wanted to be together and remember her."
That's what the group did Wednesday, with a small ceremony and balloon release just outside the front door of the school.
"We know where she is right now and we wanted to send something up to her to say that we miss her and we love her and she's always in our thoughts and prayers," Bryant said.
McGee was described as loving, compassionate and encouraging, in the community and in the classroom.
"She was very tough in the classroom, but her students loved her and respected her," said Bryant. "She was also very kind and encouraging."
"We just really want to know who did it, we want them to be brought to justice, because it was unfair, not right for them to take her in that way," said James.
Bryant said they are thinking about special ways for McGee's memory to live on in Antonelli College, including dedicating a classroom in her name.
"We'll never be able to replace her. She was one of a kind, truly," Bryant said.
If you have any information to help in the murder investigation, please call the Hattiesburg Police Department.