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Slain actress remembered for her radiance, idealism

By Elizabeth Dunbar

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeffrey Sparks recalled one of his earliest outings with Nicole duFresne, when the aspiring actress and playwright showed him what kind of a take-charge person he would be dating.

Sparks arranged for a hiking trip near Seattle, but duFresne showed up in a dress and sandals. "She headed right straight up the mountain barefoot. She said, 'Follow me,' and I did. And I never stopped."

The two were engaged when duFresne was slain Jan. 27 during a confrontation with a mugger in Manhattan's Lower East Side. On Thursday, Sparks and duFresne's family and friends remembered her during a memorial service at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.

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About 200 people filled a sanctuary that looked out at the Basilica of St. Mary's, a Minneapolis landmark that was one of duFresne's favorite buildings, family members said. The Native American spirituality family members said duFresne was drawn to was evident in the service's prayers and music.

A Wayzata native and a graduate of the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, duFresne was doing what she loved, family and friends said.

Piper Lee Cook offered one of the eulogies of her friend, saying duFresne was open and happy. "She died of a gunshot wound, but she didn't die with the pain and grief that most people take to the grave," Cook said.

DuFresne was just 28 when the mugger shot her after she, Sparks and another couple had left a bar. Witnesses told authorities that duFresne tried to stop the man when he grabbed the purse of her friend, Mary Jane Gibson. "What are you going to do, shoot us?" duFresne said, according to witnesses.

Police accuse 19-year-old Rudy Fleming of shooting duFresne. Fleming was arrested Jan. 30. Two other teenagers were arrested and charged in the slaying.

DuFresne, who was living in Brooklyn, was an actress, playwright and producer.

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