Family holds prayer vigil for teen found dead in church parking lot

Family holds prayer vigil for teen found dead in church parking lot

SPRING HILL, LA (KSLA) - Jaylen Thomas should have be in his senior year at North Webster High School, enjoying his final high school football season with his teammates, looking forward to prom and making decisions about his future after graduation. Instead, his family, friends and community will be gathering today, on the one year anniversary of his death, to remember the teen.

“Everybody as a Jaylen story....he was a star, even his grave stands out” says his mother Danicka Thomas-Hayes, while wearing her son’s varsity football jacket. Beautiful white and purple flowers now adorn his grave, representing the team he loved so much. With a heavy heart his mother says it is still as difficult today as it was last year.

Thomas, described as a great son, brother, teammate, co worker and friend, was murdered by two teens last year following a disagreement. The outpouring of love for the 17-year-old junior can still be seen all over social media pages. The family and classmates celebrated with balloons and t-shirts of Thomas in happy times, as well as boasted his jersey #24.

Today his family and community gathered to celebrate his life by releasing those balloons at his final resting place. Thomas was a student athlete at NWHS, and worked at the local Sonic. His former coaches and teammates honored their team’s beloved running back days after his murder with a candlelight vigil.

In 17 short years, Thomas has made an impact on the lives and hearts of this community and they are determined keep the spirit of their beloved #24 alive everyday. The message that Thomas' mother wants everyone to learn from this tragedy is the thing her son brought to everyone’s life he touched, love.

“Learn to love yourself enough, not to hate yourself enough to want to hate someone else to the point you [would] want to throw your life away. Jaylen will always be remembered,"

Thomas' body was found by Springhill Police in the parking lot of Harrison Chapel Baptist, a church less than a half mile west of Brown Upper Elementary School. Police say he was shot multiple times with a 45-caliber handgun.

Thomas' killers, 17-year-old Josh D. Lewis, of Cotton Valley and 15-year-old Keshawn Johnson, are both charged with second degree murder.

Both teens are set to be tried as adults at the beginning of 2019.

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