An overflow crowd spilled out of the sanctuary and into the vestibule of a West Baltimore church Wednesday morning for the funeral of Jason Mattison Jr., a 15-year-old killed last week in a brutal attack.
The principal at Jason's school announced a scholarship fund set up in his name. Friends and family recalled stories involving the rambunctious teenager, who had dreams of becoming a pediatrician. And the reverend of the church told hundreds of mourners that the boy's death should serve as a warning to the downtrodden neighborhood where it happened to closely watch all kids.
Several students from Jason's school, Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy, attended the 90-minute service held at Unity United Methodist Church on Edmondson Avenue, some of the teens becoming so overcome with emotion that they stepped outside.
"No one is truly gone if you carry them in your heart," Principal Starletta Jackson said. "And Jason is a part of our heart. We all knew that Jason wanted to be a pediatrician. There was never a question of whether or not he was going to make it. Some children we have to pray over a lot -- pray for grades that they pass, but we never worried about that with Jason."
Jason was killed at his aunt's house on Llewellyn Avenue in East Baltimore -- raped, gagged with a pillowcase, stabbed repeatedly in the head and throat and shoved into an upstairs closet. Police say a family friend, Dante Parrish, who had previously spent 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in 1999, admitted to killing Jason. Parrish is being held without bail.
But the circumstances surrounding Jason's death remained in the background Wednesday as mourners recalled Jason for his sharp, dry wit, chic clothes and uplifting demeanor.
"We will miss you Jason but know that your memory will never be lost," Jackson said.