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In life, in death

Slain teen boys hailed as kind, bright, jovial

BY PAUL HENRY henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 03, 2014    

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IT'S their final journey home.

And even the clouds — unloading in the days leading up to Monday, January 27 and the day after -- withheld themselves and gave way to the sun, which shone down in all its glory upon the proceedings that began at Thornton Primary School in St Elizabeth.

In place of the dark clouds a sheet of sorrow and tears hovered, staining mournful faces and taking the place of raindrops. Had the earth a choice in the whole affair, it would prefer the rain to what was about to be placed six feet beneath its freshly turned soil.

A column of people lined the Thornton main road, marching from the school to Cassia Lane. Among them, a mixture of students and teachers from Maggotty and Balaclava high schools.

Then came the hearses, pulling up at the top of the crammed lane with their tragic loads. Two caskets with the bodies of 15-year-old friends Desrick Williams and Ashnell Coke lifted off by pall-bearers who shouted for people to make way.

The boys made their final journey past shops they'll never set foot in again, neighbours they'll never again wave 'howdy' to and schoolmates.

Williams' final resting place was at a spot behind the modest home he grew up in, while Coke's was at the family plot in the yard of a relative a few metres from his own home.

As the caskets -- Williams' white with side panels of glass, Coke's burgundy in solid wood -- moved through the crowd, a cousin of Williams wept uncontrollably, "No! No! No!" she screamed as she buckled in the arms of two women who tried consoling her.

Both caskets were brought to Williams' yard where he was interred. As pall-bearers brought out the casket with Coke's body about 15 minutes later, Williams' relative could still be heard crying out from inside the family home, "No! No! No!"

The interment followed a lengthy service at Thornton Primary School, which featured tributes in song and kind words recounting fond memories of the teens whose lives were cut short on January 8 when they were hacked to death, allegedly by 26-year-old Alton Baker, as they tended to their fish pots at a river in the community.

Family members, friends and school representatives used adjectives such as "kind", "bright", "jovial", "loving", and "industrious" to describe the boys.

A host of members of parliament, including Security Minister Peter Bunting and Raymond Pryce, councillors and representatives from the education ministry were in attendance. The politicians who spoke quoted scriptures and called on Jamaicans to turn to God, their presentations mirroring that of Rev Ray Johnson of Thornton New Testament Church of God, who called for divine intervention while delivering the homily later.

Under the giant tent set-up in the schoolyard, David Williams sat beside his wife Lizette, both weeping quietly. Williams clutched a picture of his son to his chest. On his tie a button with the image of his son. He dabbed at his eyes with a red handkerchief. At the end of the service he slipped on a T-shirt bearing an image of his son and Ashnell.

A few rows across to the right Ashenll's father, Joscelyn Coke, and mother, Shauna Codner, sat in sorrow. Codner appeared almost emotionless as she stared ahead throughout the sermon. Eyes red, they bit their lips. Then tears.

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