BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — More than five days have passed since 13-year-old Milana Li was last seen and Beaverton Police have not released any more information about how she ended up dead in a stream in a popular Beaverton park.
Li’s body was found on Tuesday afternoon in a stream near the south end of Westside Linear Park. A makeshift memorial near there has grown each day since she was found.
Police say she was last seen Sunday around 4 p.m. and her mother first reported her missing by Monday around 1 p.m.
“She’s the sweetest girl. It’s so hard to believe what happened,” Bota Munkibi, a family friend said.
Munkibi says Milana and her younger sister would often come over to play with her children. Milana even baked her son a birthday cake one year.
“She was 11 when I first met her and she had this beautiful smile, I’ll never forget it,” Munkibi said.
Munkibi’s family moved from Kazakhstan to the Beaverton area eight years ago. It was just a couple of years ago she started finding families who were also from the Central Asian nation. One of them happened to be Milana’s.
“We are all from different cities actually,” she stated. “Probably if we were in Kazakhstan we never would have become close but, because we are overseas and we are in a different country, we become like families — not even just ‘community,’ it’s a family.”
Over the years, the families have shared traditions and holidays they would celebrate in their home country. Now they come together in support, taking turns with Milana’s mother after the teenager’s death. They bring her food, distractions, and company.
“We are all supporting. We are kind of taking shifts, you know?” Munkibi said. “Who is with them? Who will stay overnight with them? The first day when we found out, her little daughter was with me so I made sure I took care of her.”
It’s care emblematic of how Milana would care for her younger sister and the kids she would hang out with, Munkibi said. She would play games with the kids, but also cook for them and clean up after them.
The special attention Milana always paid to her younger sister was striking to Munkibi.
“She’s a child but she gives care to her little sister like an adult,” Munkibi said. “I [have] never seen what care she did [for] her little sister.”
It wasn’t just her kindness and caring that were obvious to people around her. In the few months before her death, Milana was starting Taekwondo at Murrayhill Martial arts.
“We were just like wow, I’ve never seen someone come in and do a roundhouse kick that well,” said Paige Sears, the night instruction manager at Murrayhill Martial Arts.
The kick, and the success in tying her belt on the first try (a rarity, Sears says) earned her the nickname “The Prodigy” among the staff. It was a nickname Milana wasn’t aware of.
“She didn’t quite know how amazing she was, that always stood out about her and just how much effort she put into it,” Sears said.
Sears remembers her being shy at first, but her smile and positivity eventually came through. The attitude Milana brought is what has made this week so tough for Sears and her staff. Sears says it’s tough to hold back the tears.
“Everybody can feel that she shouldn’t be gone, she should still be with us,” she said.
Munkibi’s daughter can’t believe it either. Munkibi says, her daughter looked up to Milana when they would hang out.
From what Munkibi gathered, it was a tough transition for Milana into middle school.
“I guess middle school is very hard here. She was an immigrant, she was Asian, she speaks Russian. I think she was going through a lot of changes.” Munkibi said.
There is a GoFundMe page to help Milana’s family with things like funeral costs. You can find it here.
“We believe in God and I believe that she’s in the best place right now,” Munkibi continued. “She’s a child and she’s the sweetest child. So she deserves the best and she’s in the best place.”
The Beaverton Police Department tells KOIN 6 News they don’t expect to provide another update for several more days. For a timeline of the case so far, click here.