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Gill fulfills dead girl's wish for autograph, sings tearful tribute

PLANT CITY, Fla. -- Country music star Vince Gill sang a tribute to a 12-year-old fan who was slain on her way home from school, tearfully asking the crowd at a Strawberry Festival concert to help him finish the song.

Gill sang his Grammy-winning hit, 'I Still Believe in You,' dedicating it to Jennifer Odom, who was abducted Feb. 19 after leaving a school bus and walking toward her Pasco County home. Her body was found in a wooded area near Spring Lake on Feb. 26. The case remains unsolved.

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Before the Monday night concert, Odom's stepfather, Clark Converse, went to the festival to fulfill a wish of Jennifer's that Gill autograph a photo in which the girl and her 9-year-old sister Jessica had posed with Gill at a Jan. 10 concert in Odessa, Fla., near Tampa.

'She was impressed that he wasn't a snob,' Converse said.

Converse said the girls had looked forward to Gill's performance at the Strawberry Festival for weeks, hoping they could get him to autograph the photos.

Between shows, festival vice president Joe Newsome took the three snapshots to Gill, who was eating dinner. Converse had asked that Gill autograph one for Jessica, one for Jennifer, and one for both girls.

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'I told him this young lady had been killed and her dad was outside, ' Newsome said. Gill said he remembered hearing about the killing.

He autographed the photos, writing on one, 'To Jennifer. May God be with you,' as both men wept.

Gill then went to the night's second show. Before singing the last song, he told the audience about Jennifer.

'I'm going to try to get through this the best I can,' he said, his voice cracking.

Midway through the song, with tears running down his face, Gill asked the crowd to help him finish. Nearly 15,000 voices joined in: 'I still believe in you with the love that will always be standing so strong and true. Baby, I still believe in you and me.'

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