April 18, 2009 at 1:00 am

Family, friends mourn slain college student

A photo of Asia McGowan faces those assembled for her service at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Ecorse. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Ecorse -- A small Mount Zion Baptist Church filled to the brim Friday, as friends and family mourned the loss of 20-year-old Asia McGowan, a college student who was killed in a murder-suicide on the campus of Henry Ford Community College last week.

The services were marked by a mixture of sorrow for and celebration of McGowan for the several hundred who streamed into the church to remember the life of the actress, dancer and jokester who dreamed of stardom and sought out every audition she could.

While the tears flowed for a life cut short, the crowd clapped, sung and swayed solemnly to the church choir and band's music, an art form close to McGowan's heart.

"She was just a beautiful spirit. She was my sister," Tasha McGowan said, speaking proudly out to the pews. "She did everything she said she was going to do."

At Ecorse Community High School, Asia McGowan was awarded the lead roles in three musicals: "Annie," "The Wiz" and "Cinderella." In the fall, she took part in the Henry Ford Community College production "Wisdom and Wonder." Last week, she was preparing for an audition for the television show "So You Think You Can Dance?" to a Michael Jackson tune.

Tragedy struck last week, when police say Anthony Powell, 28, killed McGowan at the community college and then committed suicide by turning the shotgun on himself. Powell had a history of posting rants online and previously threatened to kill himself.

McGowan's father, Turahn McGowan, said he's appreciated the support of Ecorse and McGowan's college community, calling their outpouring, which included a Wednesday night vigil on the Ecorse riverfront, "a nice gesture." Before Friday's funeral, he also said he shares pain with Powell's parents, who also lost their child.

"They don't even have to apologize; I've already forgiven them," McGowan said.

Others attending the services shared common thoughts, saying they were more enriched for having known McGowan, and wondering why anyone would want to take her life.

Family friend Wanda Drayton of Ecorse said the death stings. Her daughter was friends with Asia McGowan.

"This whole thing really hurts," Drayton said. "She had a talented future."

Perhaps Asia McGowan's most lasting legacy may come from Capitol Hill. Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit, told the hundreds attending the funeral that she will push for legislation to help those with mental health issues before they become violent.

Kilpatrick's office said she is meeting with mental health experts about how to best approach it.

"As we leave here, the first day of the rest of our lives, just know that Asia lives," the congresswoman told the people assembled in the Ecorse church.

Kilpatrick said she would call her legislation Asia's Law.

tali@detnews.com">tali@detnews.com (734) 462-2094

The McGowan family arrives for the service. Mourners remembered Asia ...
McGowan (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)