More than 100 people crowded into an intimate memorial service Saturday morning for Stephen Alex Rane, a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park who police say was killed Tuesday by his housemate.
"We've witnessed a horrific tragedy this week," said the Rev. Jim Moyer, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church outside Philadelphia. During the 40-minute service, mourners made little other mention of the circumstances of Rane's death.
Instead, family and friends took the solemn occasion to share thoughts about how, over his 22 years, the gregarious young man brought them joy, taught them life lessons and stood by them.
"It was never in his nature to fight or be angry," said his older sister, Alison Rane, before reading aloud a piece he wrote for her as a birthday gift. "He was like my twin. My friendlier, happier, wittier twin."
Rane, a 2009 graduate of Centennial High School in Ellicott City, was majoring in English and linguistics. He spent his spring semester last year studying in Ireland.
The lower half of Rane's body, in an open casket, was draped with the flag of Ireland's County Cork throughout the service at the Mauger Givnish Funeral Home. In the corner, an Irish flag, which Rane's friends say he had hanging even before he visited the country, was displayed.
"I'm grateful he got to spend time in Ireland, which is where his heart seemed to be," his sister said.
His time in Ireland, friends say, is what caused him to lease a room in a house on 36th Avenue in College Park, with housemates he did not know.
Because Rane was away during the 2012 spring semester, he was not able to take part in the annual scramble for housing, said Nick Solomotis.
Rane ended up living with the man who police say killed him.
About 1 a.m. Tuesday, according to Prince George's County police, 23-year-old engineering graduate student Dayvon Maurice Green set fires in the basement and back yard of the residence, in order to draw his housemates into the open, and then fired on them.
Rane suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died in the front yard. Neal Oa, a 22-year-old junior economics major from Urbana, was shot in the leg but was able to flee to a nearby home.
Police said they found Green dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the backyard, and that the 9 mm handgun he used to shoot his housemates was with him. Authorities also collected a bag with a machete, a baseball bat and a fully loaded semiautomatic .22-caliber rifle at the scene.
Green, who did not leave a suicide note, purchased both the guns legally — the handgun last year in Baltimore County and the rifle in January from a gun shop in Silver Spring.
Green's family reported that he had been living with a mental illness for at least a year and had been on medication in the past, police said. Green was never treated for mental illness by anyone at the University of Maryland, school officials said.
Rane's friends said he had voiced concerns about Green in recent weeks.
In January, Rane said he was uncomfortable with the number of guns Green owned, said Jeanette Santori, 21, who had been close with Rane since high school.
On Monday, hours before he was killed, Rane mentioned that the housemates had met to discuss Green's gun ownership, said Solomotis, 21, who lived with Rane during their junior year. Rane also said neighbors had recently stopped by to tell Green that his actions were upsetting their children, Solomotis said.
"There's so much that could have been done," Santori said.
Drew Needham, who lived with Rane during their sophomore and junior years in College Park, said he wished his friend could have seen the number of people who came out Saturday to say their final goodbyes.
"I cannot think of a single instance of him turning someone away," Needham said. "He touched so many lives because he never held back."
Rane, a "class clown," always tried to keep others amused, his friends said. Even down to his favorite color — brown — Rane was trying to make people smile, they said.
"I'm pretty sure he picked that because it entertained other people," Santori said. Rane was the person she turned to when she was down, she said, and he always picked her up.
People could be themselves around Rane, Needham said, without worrying that he would criticize them. He was someone to "be nerdy" with — play video and strategy games, listen to Irish pub music and discuss social justice, he said.
"He taught me to be not judgmental," Jack Santori, Jeanette's father, said from the lectern at the service, describing Rane as mature beyond his years.
A classmate and co-worker of Rane's from a video game store, a high school friend and a cousin also shared memories before the tearful group.
"There were so many things he wanted to try" in his life — learning languages, traveling, teaching and writing, Jeanette Santori said after the service.
Rane's mother, Karen Rane, and stepfather, Gerald Brust, both work in the University of Maryland entomology department. Rane is also survived by his father, Stanley Rane, and stepmother, Teresa Pena, of Glen Mills, Pa.; two sisters; and his grandmothers, according to the funeral home.
Rane was buried after the ceremony at Philadelphia Memorial Park in Frazer.
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