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.
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.
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.”