About his skin-tight jeans and funky sweaters. About his boisterous voice that seemed to run nonstop. About his exuberance in recounting the most mundane of events. About his flamboyant mannerisms. He was 15, a sophomore in high school, and he was gay.
"Even if it hurt him, he gave the other person the impression he was stronger," recalled his English teacher, Ryan C. Jones.
But while Jason appeared strong and confident in the safe confines of his school on North Calhoun Street, unafraid to embrace his sexual orientation as part of his personality, the world outside did not offer those same protections.
Last week, at his aunt's house, one of the few occupied homes on a block boarded and sagging, he was found dead - raped, gagged with a pillowcase, stabbed repeatedly in the head and throat, and shoved into an upstairs closet. Jason's killing left his teachers, classmates and relatives in tears and family members asking questions of one another even in the days leading up to today's funeral.
Did Jason leave his mother's house and move in with his aunt, as his grandmother suggested? Or was he just visiting on that fateful day, as a cousin said? And why did people in his aunt's house open their door to the suspect, a convicted killer released early from prison because of flaws in his case?
"From now on, we do have to take more care in who we let in and who we trust," said Jason's cousin, Laquanna Couplin, who lives in the house on Llewellyn Avenue where Jason was killed.
She described Dante Parrish, 35, who is charged with first-degree murder in the case, as a longtime family friend, but she would not say whether he lived there or visited.
Couplin spoke briefly Monday while standing on her front porch, complaining that too many stories, too many accusations, made it difficult to grieve, and that she was tired of trying to set the record straight.
"He was a terrific boy, and we miss him very much," Couplin said. "We're hoping that justice is served and that the person who is responsible for this goes to prison and doesn't get out."
Of Jason, she said, "He was a sweet young man. He wasn't afraid of who he was. He had a life ahead of him. I just wish he could've had a chance to live it."
But his paternal grandmother, Wanda Williams, one of the first Jason confided in about being gay and who handed him a few dollars now and then for food and clothes, questioned how other relatives could have allowed the boy to be in the same house with Parrish, given his violent past.
"I haven't cried so much this entire life," Williams said. "My grandson hollering for help and there is nobody there to help him."
Jason loved texting and talking, and he spent his evenings chatting with friends on MySpace.
Jason was one of the most popular kids at school, his English teacher said, always first to class, always first to the cafeteria, where students fought to sit at his table, always first to turn in his homework and always getting near-perfect grades.
"He was outspoken and excited about everything he talked about," Jones said. "Walking into school, he was the first one to share what he did over the weekend. He was very, very popular, and he was everyone's best friend."
Jason wanted to be a pediatrician, Jones said, and the only thing the two debated was Jason's constant chatter.
"He was not a behavioral problem," Jones said. "He was a talking problem."