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Stephanie Parente's suitemates remember 'Little Steph'

BALTIMORE - They call themselves "The Mates." Danni and Lauren, Jules and Heather, Big Steph and Little Steph, or just "the little one."

The six suitemates at Loyola College in Maryland created a family here, a place where they danced to Britney Spears and watched "Jeopardy," played video games and laughed the night away.

Stephanie Parente provided many of those laughs, a dynamic, 19-year-old sophomore from Garden City who barely broke 5 feet and 100 pounds, and amused her friends with antics like enrolling in a wizardry class.

"The six of us, we were always together," Julieanne Malley, 19, of Caldwell, N.J., said Thursday.

Stephanie, sister Catherine, 11, and their mother, Betty, were killed by her father, William, in a Towson, Md., hotel room Sunday, police have said, wiping out one family and leaving another one member less.

Now, the girls who live in Newman Towers East, are adjusting to a life without Little Steph. They haven't slept in their suite, haven't left each other's sides (except for Heather Draganescu, 20, who transferred to a school outside of Philadelphia last year but visited Loyola this week).

Talking about Stephanie, the girls light up, even her memory making them laugh. "She didn't live a long life, but she definitely lived the life she wanted to live, especially these last two years of college," Malley said.

"It makes us feel comfortable to know that she was basically living day to day like that," said Lauren Gallinari, 19, of Tuckahoe, N.Y.

Stephanie was always immaculately dressed, the friends said. Even at breakfast, she would don designer flats.

She was on the women's crew team last year and was the men's crew coxswain this year. She loved going out to eat, persuading her friends to take $10 cabs to Chipotle Mexican Grill.

The Parente family checked into a hotel about five miles north of campus Wednesday. It was a surprise, the friends said. "They came for all the regular visits, but they didn't come to just come," said Stephanie Nguyen, 20, of Wingdale, N.Y.

Stephanie spoke to her mother every day. She adored Catherine, who visited on Loyola's sibling day. Stephanie would do her hair. Sometimes they wore matching clothes. She took cell phone pictures of herself doing things like watching television and sent them to her.

There were no indications of problems, the friends said. The family went to Florida and the Hamptons. She got along with her father.

"She loved her family," said Danielle Scorrano, 20, of Somers, N.Y.

The suitemates saw Stephanie on Sunday before she had breakfast with her family. They saw her again when she returned to campus. Nguyen's mother, Victoria, has said Stephanie was taking a nap at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The friends don't want to talk about what happened after that.

Thursday was the first day they returned to class. Draganescu has returned to her school.

This weekend is Loyolapalooza, an annual party before finals. The six went together last year. A black and white picture of them there sat atop the altar at the Mass Tuesday, where hundreds crammed a campus chapel.

This year, the friends are hoping to wear T-shirts to Loyolapalooza in memory of Stephanie. There are also plans to raise money for a memorial. And they hope to make bracelets that they will always wear.

They will stay in the suite for the rest of the year. "I think it would be worse to move than to stay," Nguyen said. "Our door is decorated. There's a whole big shrine of memories to Steph."

Surrounded by pictures and notes, it reads "Remembering Stephanie."

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