Middletown gathers, grieves while investigators pause in search of first-grader’s body

Credit: Journal News

Middletown City Schools hosts a celebration of life vigil in memory of 6-year-old James Hutchinson

Credit: Journal News

As investigators are forced by flooding to pause from searching for James Hutchison’s body, a shocked Middletown community held a vigil at Barnitz Stadium on Tuesday evening to share in grieving over the first grader’s untimely death.

City and school officials also announced Wednesday a trust fund is being set up to allow the public to donate toward raising money for James’ two siblings, while Hutchinson’s mother and her boyfriend face charges in their brother’s death.

Shelby Quinlivan, spokeswoman for the city, released a statement saying “Middletown City Schools and the City of Middletown are working with a financial institution to create a trust to benefit the siblings of James Hutchinson. We anticipate the trust being available for the community soon and we will share that information as soon as possible.”

Police investigators have charged Brittany Gosney, 29, of the 500 block of Crawford Street, with murder, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence for the death of her son.

ExploreTimeline: How the murder case of Middletown 6-year-old James Hutchinson unfolded

Her boyfriend, James Hamilton, 42, is charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

The Ohio River reached flood stage Wednesday and police investigators said the waters are too high for a safe search in the river near Lawrenceburg, Indiana – close to the Ohio border – where police suspect Hutchinson’s body was dumped.

ExploreMiddletown chief: Ohio River still too high to search for 6-year-old James Hutchinson

The Tuesday evening vigil organized by Middletown Schools at Barnitz Stadium, across the street from Hutchinson’s Rosa Parks Elementary, saw a community come together in mourning. At the same time, a memorial in front of Hutchinson’s Crawford Street house has continued to grow with balloons, signs, candles and more, showing the community support.

ExploreThere is a long road of healing’: Middletown community celebrates first-grader James Hutchinson’s life

An on-field centerpiece next to the speakers’ podium was a large painting of Hutchinson — the artwork was done this week by high school students in Rick Krebs’ art class — who was described as a happy, fun, bright and well-liked student.

Hundreds turned out on a cold evening to join prayers from local pastors. Some in the crowd released balloons skyward to commemorate Hutchinson’s short life.

“We are heartbroken and there is a long road of healing for all of us,” Rosa Parks Principal Tracy Neeley said before introducing the staff members who knew James best, his first-grade teacher Shawn Kavanaugh and kindergarten teacher Leigh Phieffer.

“James was a student who demonstrated everything we look for when we say Middie pride,” said Phieffer, referencing the school community’s long-time motto.

Phieffer said James always came to school with a smile on his face, was well-behaved, hard-working, loved to help others and came to school with a positive attitude.

“He would be the first one to greet me each morning.”

Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said “I know we are all emotional, upset, angry. This is about us coming together as a community to grieve as a family and to begin healing as a family.”

All five Middletown council members mentioned Hutchinson’s death during their comments Tuesday evening at a city council meeting.

Council member Ami Vitori said as people “search for answers” her hope is that residents “channel those feelings into community action.”

Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan said it’s difficult to “make sense of the senseless.”

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