PORTLAND, Maine - Megan Waterman is finally at rest.

Seven months after the single mother from Scarborough, Maine, disappeared on Long Island, friends and family gathered Sunday in Portland to say goodbye, in a service punctuated with sobs and uncontrolled tears.

"I don't know how to let go of you. It's the hardest thing I've had to do," said half-sister Amanda Gove, who rose during the service to speak, only to break down. Her half-brother, Greg Waterman, went to help her, only to break down himself.

Her family learned this month that Waterman was among the four women found dead near Gilgo Beach in December, possibly the victims of a serial killer, police said. Waterman, like the others, had advertised her services as an escort.

During the service at the Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, the Rev. Mark Drinkwater described Megan Waterman as a natural leader who loved to be in charge. She was always up for an adventure, he said, and would stick up for those she loved even if it put her in danger.

"We are faced today with the irony of Megan's demise and God's love for her," Drinkwater said. "What became of Megan's fate was not God's doing. It came of evil and was not of God."

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"Megan is in the house of the Lord right now," Drinkwater said. "She would not want for any of you to be lost or missing. She would seek for you just as you all have sought for her."

A tragic discovery

Waterman, 22, and the bodies of three other women were discovered along a windswept spit of land near Gilgo Beach. All were wrapped in burlap, some badly decomposed.

Suffolk police revealed the women had all used Craigslist or other websites to post ads as escorts. Each one - Melissa Barthelemy, of the Bronx, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn., and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon and Waterman - had a rendezvous planned the night they went missing, police said.

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Waterman's best friend, Nicole "Nicci" Haycock, said this week: "She was making bad choices, but it's nothing to lose your life over."

The night before the funeral, 200 people went to a Portland-area roller skating rink, a favorite of Waterman's, to celebrate her life.

"Nobody can ever hurt her again," Waterman's mother, Lorraine Ela, said.

Waterman had traveled to Long Island in June with Akeem Malik Cruz, then 20, whom she had been dating for 11 months. Family and police have described Cruz as her pimp, though he has not been charged with that offense.

Cruz is incarcerated in Windham, Maine, on a drug charge, and had been questioned by Scarborough police, who did not charge him. He has not cooperated with investigators since, police said.

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Last week, his attorney said Cruz declined all requests for interviews.

Family looking for answers

Waterman worked intermittently as an escort, Haycock said. She fell into the work out of a misguided sense of love, the family said.

"It's not what she was," said the victim's older brother, Greg Waterman, 24. "This one guy she met; she fell in love with him. Whatever he said, she did."

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Megan Waterman had dropped out of high school and was working in sandwich shops when she met Cruz in 2009, the family said.

He would often spend the night with his family in Brooklyn while she stayed in a hotel, which she would sometimes use to have sex with her clients, her brother and friend said.

Greg Waterman said he begged her to stop working as a prostitute, but she laughed off her brother's concerns, convinced Cruz would protect her.

"She didn't see any danger," Haycock said.

According to Greg Waterman and Haycock, Megan was twice robbed while working as an escort on Long Island, they said. On one occasion, three men stormed Waterman's room, forced her and another woman into the shower and stole their phones and some marijuana, they said. She was also arrested in a police sting, though relatives don't know by which agency.

The tragedy has forged new bonds among family members, with most nearby relatives pitching in to help. The family raised money and set up a website about the case.

Loved ones now know Megan Waterman's fate, but they don't have all the answers they want. "We're not going to give up," Greg Waterman said. "We want to find out."