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Family, friends celebrate 17th birthday of homicide victim Makayla Chang

WATCH: It was an emotional day for those close to a Nanaimo teen found dead this past year. Makayla Chang was last seen in March of 2017. Her body was found in May. Makayla would have turned 17 years old on Thursday and many who loved are remembering her and missing her as they await answers about who was responsible for her death. Kendall Hanson reports.

When Dolly Chang arrived at her granddaughter's gravesite Thursday morning she couldn't help but smile. It was covered with balloons and notes from people wishing Makayla a happy 17th birthday.

"It's hard to believe it's a year already," said Makayla's grandmother Dolly Chang.

The milestones Makayla Chang is no longer here to celebrate spark bittersweet feelings for those who were closest to her.

Still, on what would have been her 17th birthday, it is a chance to remember the many good times together.

"She would wake up in the morning and be singing," recalled Chang. "She was a happy happy girl and she's just missed by so many people. She was funny and goofy and we miss her so much."

"I really want to be happy that she was here and not only focus that she's not anymore," said friend Valentina Cardinalli. "She was a bright part of my life and that's what I'm remembering today."

The teen went missing nearly a year ago on March 19.

It prompted an extensive search that went on for weeks but in May, Makayla's body was found and police ruled it a murder.

Months later, there have still been no arrests and RCMP declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Her grandmother who raised her says she prefers to focus on how she lived, not how she died.

"Those are the parts I want to keep rather than the criminal parts that keep popping into your head all the time," said Chang. "I'll go crazy if I do that."

Friends and classmates also paid tribute to the teen on Thursday with social media posts and T-shirts, made in her memory, which read,

"She was chaos and beauty intertwined. A tornado of roses from divine."

"We can't forget that this bright little person was in our world and that is important for this community to celebrate her birthday and never ever ever let her go," said Cardinalli.

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