Bryce Linebaugh’s tragically brief life, ended by a gunman’s bullet, was celebrated with tears and prayers, raised candles and a verse of “Amazing Grace” at a candlelight vigil in his honor Thursday.
Bryce, 8, was shot in the head early Monday while he slept in the top portion of his bunk bed in an upstairs bedroom of his home at 1404 Maplewood Court in Rockford Village on the city’s East Side.
“He was an amazing, beautiful boy who was so full of life. He didn’t deserve this. He was asleep in his bed,” said Bryce’s mother, Jessica Linebaugh, after the vigil ended.
Jessica and her boyfriend, Thomas Hight Jr., and her other children, Jayvon Harris, 4, and daughter, Aniah Harris, 5, stood silently for some time in front of the patio of their former home holding lighted candles.
A crowd of about 200 mourners began gathering in front of 1404 Maplewood Court about 9 p.m. Jessica, Jayvon, Aniah and Hight arrived later after calling hours at Lane Funeral Home in Mineral Ridge.
Wearing a shirt with the words printed on it: R.I.P Bryce. Hug him once for me,” Jessica thanked everybody for coming to the vigil.
“It means a lot to me. It shows that you cared about my baby and that he will live on through you.
“He was only eight, but it shows how many people he touched. He was so smart ... the most amazing little boy,” she said.
Others said they will also miss Bryce.
Jonique Love, who used to live next door, said Jessica was one of her best friends and Bryce was her godson. Her son, Colin “Nupy” McFadden, 9, played a lot with Bryce.
Cathy Perry, who lives two doors from 1404 Maplewood Court, said Bryce and his brother and sister came to play with her grandchildren and swing on her porch.
“He called me Grandma,” said Perry, who said she fears for her grandchildren. “There is no reason that should have happened to that baby,” she said.
“Senseless,” is how Trenton Hight, brother of Jessica’s boyfriend, described Bryce’s murder.
The neighborhood kids say they too will miss their friend.
“We all stayed there [at Bryce’s home] and came in the morning to play,” said Keivon Mitchell, 8, and Demarcus McElroy, 9.
Denasia Douglas, 8, said she “knew Bryce pretty good.” When asked if she would miss him, she nodded silently.
“Bryce will always be remembered,” said Koumba Duval, another playmate.
“This is a sad day,” said Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, who attended the vigil. Her ward includes Rockford Village.
“I hope this [the vigil] will bring some comfort to the residents. I know they are hurting and they will get their justice,” Gillam said.
The man charged with aggravated murder in Bryce’s shooting death had a hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Thursday relating to a probation violation on an earlier felony conviction.
Shawn R. Wilson, 21, was charged with the death Wednesday in Youngstown Municipal Court.
In December 2009, Wilson pleaded guilty to improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and was sentenced to three years of probation, according to Mahoning County court records.
In January, Wilson was found guilty of a probation violation by Judge Lou A. D’Apolito and was sentenced to continue probation before appearing in front of Judge D’Apolito Thursday.
After Thursday’s hearing, the court set a probation violation hearing for 11 a.m. Sept. 11. Wilson was told in January if he violated any terms or conditions, the court would sentence him to one year in prison.
Wilson has a preliminary hearing on the aggravated murder charge Aug. 30 in municipal court. During a Tuesday search near Wilson’s East Side residence, police recovered a shotgun and an SKS assault rifle, which is believed to be the murder weapon.
The Rev. Willie Peterson, pastor of New Birth Kimmelbrook Baptist Church, said a member of his church and the Metro Assembly will reach out to meet the spiritual and physical needs of Bryce’s family, who he said are being relocated to another Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority complex.
“You send your child to bed and don’t expect them to be killed. Even as a minister I don’t have words for that,” the Rev. Mr. Peterson said.
However, he said his goal is to tell the people of Youngstown that Bryce’s shooting is not a regular occurrence in Rockford Village and that it is a safe neighborhood.
“We want to keep it that way,” he said, adding, “This kind of tragedy doesn’t define Rockwood.”
“Our world is unsafe, it’s not just the neighborhood. It’s important that we don’t allow the fear of evil to stop us from living our lives. Good overpowers evil if we push for it. We have to stand on the good,” Mr. Peterson said.