Gary Susman
April 23, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Saying goodbye is never an easy thing…” sang Carmen Rasmusen on Tuesday night’s episode of ”American Idol,” before getting to prove it on Wednesday. With a record 21.5 million votes cast, home viewers chose to send the 18-year-old with the vibrato-inflected voice back home to Bountiful, Utah.

Trenyce and Joshua Gracin rounded out the bottom three this week, a group that, according to judge Simon Cowell, included no one who could win this contest. Viewers apparently agreed, keeping safe the vocal standouts among the five remaining finalists: Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke. ”It’s such a big stepping stone. It’s been awesome,” said Carmen as she departed.

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