Saying goodbye to Jeremy
Mohave Valley Daily News - 6/4/2018
BULLHEAD CITY - Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil Sunday evening for Jeremy Duncan, a missing boy whose body was found in the Colorado River on Sunday morning after a nearly 24-hour search effort.
People were asked to wear the color blue for the vigil. Light blue, specifically, is used to recognize people living with autism. Family members wore red, however, with a person who knows the family saying it was Jeremy's favorite color.
There were donations made to the family and everyone in attendance was encouraged to sign a guestbook.
A metal pipe in the park near the river was the foundation for a makeshift memorial with toys, flowers, balloons and many candles. Organizers brought plenty of bottled water because it was well above 100 degrees at 7 p.m. And there were plenty of extra candles to go around for people who didn't bring their own.
Mayor Tom Brady, pastor Allen Cates from Praise Chapel, and community members spoke to the assembled.
Brady said the response by local and area law enforcement to Jeremy's disappearance, as well as the willingness of community members to help with the effort to find the boy, was overwhelming.
"I can't believe how warm and generous our community is," he said.
Cates said Jeremy went to his church and that he was a special child. He also joked that Jeremy being a little boy with a lot of energy meant that "he terrorized our church."
However, in church Sunday morning after news of Jeremy's death had spread widely, "there wasn't a dry eye."
Both men mentioned another local child who was the subject of an intense search in 2014: Isabella "Bella" Grogan-Cannella. She was 8 years old when she was killed and left in a shallow grave. Her alleged killer, Justin James Rector, is in Mohave County Jail awaiting trial.
Brady recalled attending a similar memorial for Bella. A rock garden in memory of the girl is in Rotary Park.
"We've gathered for another young life that ended in tragedy," he said.
Cates led a prayer and asked God that the community not have to face another tragic death of a child. Bella also went to Praise Chapel, he said.
Jeremy's aunt, Sara Gutierrez of Golden Valley, said after the vigil that Jeremy was a little boy who was a lot of fun to be around. Though he didn't speak, he was learning sign language in school.
"He knew how to ask for food," she said. "He loved gravel and rocks. ... And he had a finesse for spinning things - even angled spinning."
Jeremy's mother, Bernadette Santos, was at the vigil with Gutierrez and other loved ones. Gutierrez said Jeremy's death comes only a couple of months after an older son, who had been living in Mexico, died as a result of an assault.
Jeremy's father, also named Jeremy Duncan, lives in Seattle with his and Santos' daughter. A Gofundme.com account allowed him to raise money for the trip here, but the money won't be available for days, Gutierrez noted.
Gutierrez especially wanted to thank the community for everything it did to help, adding that law enforcement and other officials were considerate to Santos. She said their entire family appreciates the enormous outpouring of assistance and support.
Jeremy was about a month shy of his eighth birthday, July 7. He was reported missing at 9:13 a.m. Saturday from the 2000 block of White Sands Drive. A kayaker at the Palo Verde Marina discovered what they thought was a body and reported it at 7:13 a.m. Sunday. Police boated to the location and a dive team recovered the boy's body.
Jeremy stood 4 feel tall, weighed 63 pounds and had brown eyes and curly brown hair; he was autistic and non-verbal.
In a news conference on Sunday morning Police Chief Brian Williamson, Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Brady offered their condolences to Jeremy's family and thanked members of agencies that assisted in the search, as well as the roughly 1,000 volunteers who also helped try to find him.
"The Police Department and the community's heart was broken," said Williamson. "This is not, of course, how we wanted this to end."
"Hope was replaced this morning by shock and sadness over the discovery of Jeremy's lifeless body," Schuster said.
There were searchers on land, in the air and the river. After the volunteers were asked to go home Saturday evening and come back in the morning, personnel from various agencies kept searching for Jeremy overnight.
Fliers were created and quickly distributed around the community. Billboards with Jeremy's picture went up at locations near Highway 95 asking for information. Numerous donations of food and drink ensured those involved in the search were well fed.
An investigation is being conducted about Jeremy's death. Williamson didn't elaborate on what investigators might be focusing.
Jeremy's body was turned over to the Mohave County Coroner's Office to determine his cause of death, Williamson added.