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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Sonja Larson, 18, had just finished her first summer of classes at UF. As a second-semester freshman, she was studying science and pre-engineering.

She managed the girl’s varsity basketball team in high school. According to Alligator archives, her mother, Ada, described her as willowy, popular and quiet.

She said she carried Larson’s Bible with her to church and noted that Psalms 1 through 3 were highlighted.

• • •

Christina "Christi" Powell, 17, had also spent the summer taking classes at UF as a freshman. She was her high school yearbook editor and hoped to pursue architecture. Her mother, Pat Powell, remembered her daughter as a nice and joyful person during a memorial service Tuesday.

"When she was on the phone with one of her friends and I’d be in the kitchen cooking, I could hear her howling with laughter, which also made me laugh," Powell said.

Christi knew her 11 nieces and nephews, spending time with them before she left for college, her mother said. Her youngest nephew, born seven months after her death, was named Christian in her memory.

• • •

Christa Leigh Hoyt, 18, was a student at Santa Fe Community College in August 1990. A records clerk for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, she hoped to enter a career in law enforcement.

"Christa was an achiever," said her stepmother, Dianna Hoyt. "She wanted to strive for perfection."

Because of her constant and warm smile, her friends called her "Glowworm," Hoyt said.

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Manuel "Manny" Taboada, 23, had just graduated from Santa Fe Community College and was beginning his junior year as an architecture student at UF. His brother, Mario, said Manny was excited to start school as a Gator.

"He was beside himself to be here," Taboada said. "I think he was going to make a name for himself."

"He had a lot of dreams," he said, remembering his brother as an outgoing and vibrant person.

Taboada had played high school football in addition to serving as Thespians club president and news anchorman at his high school.

• • •

Tracy Paules, 23, was a pre-law student at UF.

At Miami’s American High School, she had played soccer and softball and was elected as Homecoming Queen and class president.

According to Alligator archives, loved ones described Paules as beautiful and poised, greeting her parents with "hi dude" and "hi dudette" on occasion.

Close with her family, her brother Scott got permission for leave from the U.S. Navy in order to escort Paules on the night she was crowned Homecoming Queen.

Contact EmilyCochrane at and follow her on Twitter @ESCochrane

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