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

A large crowd gathered at Barnitz Stadium at Middletown High School on Tuesday night in honor of James Hutchinson, the Rosa Parks Elementary School first-grader who police say was killed by his mother last week.

The district organized the event at which school officials gave statements from a podium next to 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.

“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, who 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.”

The event followed a vigil organized by community members on Monday night at Gardner Park as the community deals with shock over Hutchinson’s death and the charges against his mother and her boyfriend.

“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,” said Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr.

Brittany Gosney, 29, of the 500 block of Crawford Street, is charged with murder, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence for the death of her son, James Robert Hutchinson. Her boyfriend, James Hamilton, 42, is charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

They are accused of moving the boy’s body back to Middletown after his death in Preble County, driving it to Indiana and disposing of it in the Ohio River on Saturday.

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.”

Council member Tal Moon called the death of James “heartbreaking” and no one his age should lose their life.

Council member Monica Nenni, who said she doesn’t have children, hates hearing the “pain in the voices of parents.”

About the Authors