An uplifting tribute to Rodriguez

South High's softball and dance teams honored former teammate Melissa Rodriguez, who was killed Aug. 14, before the softball team's game Thursday. Joining the tribute were Melissa's mother, Angie Rodriguez, center, sisters Nicole, left, and Mikaela, and niece Aubrey.

Red and white balloons lifted into the late afternoon sky Thursday, a tribute by the South High School softball team to former teammate Melissa Rodriguez, who was slain earlier this month.

The Packers dedicated their home game against Omaha Northwest to Rodriguez, a 2012 South graduate.

Also taking part in the balloon release were Melissa's mother, Angie Rodriguez, and two of Melissa's sisters, Mikaela and Nicole.

The dance team — Melissa had been a member — also performed, and one of her relatives sang the national anthem.

Melissa Rodriguez, 19, was “just a great student who was loved by everyone,” said Roni Huerta, the school's athletic director.

She was killed Aug. 14, authorities say, and her body was discovered the following day in a freshly dug grave at a South Omaha cemetery.

Her boyfriend, Mikael Loyd, 19, has been charged with first-degree murder. He's being held without bail at the Douglas County Correctional Center.

Prosecutors say Loyd and Rodriguez met up on Aug. 14 at Hitchcock Park, where they argued, made up and argued again. He later strangled Rodriguez, prosecutors say.

The couple's relationship had been stormy. Rodriguez's parents called Omaha police in June after seeing bruises on their daughter. An arrest warrant was issued for Loyd.

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