Hundreds gathered at funeral held for slain Merced teacher

FRESNO, Calif.

A steady stream of mourners filled Saint Patrick's Catholic Church in Merced Thursday morning to say goodbye to a cherished teacher and mother of two.

Sally McKim said, "Everyone is just devastated to see someone so vibrant and so loved by her students and her friends and family, and it's just so sad for everyone."

Romero worked for the Merced City School District for 19 years, including 13 at Peterson Elementary School. Colleagues say she left a lasting impression on all of her students.

Karen Montano said, "Diane was a wonderful person, and she was an awesome teacher. She was so dedicated, and the kids all knew that she loved them and that they she hoped for the best for them, so she was awesome."

News of Romero's murder stunned her former co-workers, students, and neighbors in this normally quiet cul-de-sac. Friends say her death has sparked an overwhelming response from the community, which was evident in the large number of people who gathered at the church to pay their respects.

Harley Hermosillo said, "Absolutely, the whole community, all of Merced."

Meredith and Harley Hermosillo say they also wanted to attend the service to show their support for Romero's two teenage sons and her grieving mother.

Meredith said, "Lutie is one of our dear friends and we love her very much, and our hearts go out to them."

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