RIVIERE-OUELLE, Que. - A group of children released white balloons from the front steps of a Quebec church on Saturday following a funeral for a political aide whose violent death shocked the province.

Nancy Michaud, a popular resident and volunteer in her village of 1,200, worked for Quebec Natural Resources Minister Claude Bechard.

"It's a big loss for the community, for us, for all the region," Bechard told reporters after the service.

"I hope that for the future we'll be able together to give to her family and her children all the help that they need to able to face this event.

"It's tough for everyone."

Michaud was dragged from her home in Riviere-Ouelle early in the morning of May 16 as her young boys slept.

The 37-year-old's body was found two days later in the basement of a vacant house a few kilometres from her home.

Michaud's family did not speak to reporters after the service, which was off limits to reporters and cameramen.

Premier Jean Charest and Opposition Leader Mario Dumont were among those who attended the service inside the town's church, a short walk from Michaud's house.

"She leaves us under very sad circumstances that nobody is able to understand," Charest said.

"Her death (and) her life, from all the evidence, really left a mark on all Quebecers."

The violent abduction shook the quiet farming community, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River northeast of Quebec City.

Most citizens say they never felt the need to lock their doors until Michaud's kidnapping.

Michaud leaves behind her husband, Daniel Casgrain, and her boys, aged 18 months and six years old.

On Saturday, before the funeral, Rev. Simon-Pierre Pelletier admitted it would be difficult to meet with the family and to find the right words for the service.

Meanwhile, Bechard said locals are mulling the idea of naming a park in Riviere-Ouelle after Michaud.

Neighbour Francis Proulx, 29, who like Michaud grew up in the village, has been charged with first-degree murder in her death.

He is being detained in Rimouski pending the beginning of his trial.

Proulx had been living in an upstairs apartment in the former presbytery across the parking lot from the church.

The dilapidated house where police found Michaud's body belongs to one of Proulx's relatives. Results of the autopsy have not been made public.

Rene Nadeau, who lives in a unit down the hall from Proulx, described him as a "very quiet guy" who loved working on his pickup truck.

Proulx has also begun a preliminary hearing for an unrelated case where he is accused of stealing $100,000 from an 87-year-old relative.

Proulx returns to court June 3.

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