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October 3--  Efforts by Vidalia Onion farmers to honor the memory of 15-year-old murder victim Courtney Wilkes have sparked a strong response in the community.

Bob Stafford with the Vidalia Onion Committee says Courtney's Scholarship Fund gives people an opportunity to empathize with her family in a positive way.

{mosimage}"This young lady was so involved in 4-H and FFA and she wanted to be a veterinarian and was very involved in school.  Her family is involved in the Vidalia Onion industry and this is a community effort.  The folks just wanted to do something," Stafford said.

According to Stafford, people appreciate the chance to perpetuate what Courtney's life meant to them for years to come through the scholarship fund. "The response has been tremendous.  The amazing thing is I'm getting a lot of notes with the contributions saying how much the people appreciate us giving the community an opportunity to participate in this great effort," he says.

Stafford reports contributions have already exceeded the original $10,000 goal. "We had originally set a minimum of a $1,000 scholarship for ten years and we've already gone over that," he reports.

{mosimage}Meanwhile, a Florida prosecutor reports a pre-trial conference for Courtney's accused killer will be held December 15.  However, Assistant State's Attorney Bobby Elmore says he can't predict when Steven Cozzie's trial will begin.  Cozzie has pleaded not guilty and has recently hired new lawyers after his public defender withdrew from the case, according to Elmore.  He says it's not uncommon for a capital murder case to take up to two years to come to trial.