Slain Connellsville teenager to be mourned in public memorial service
Classmates, teachers and the community will come together this week to mourn and celebrate the life of Darrell Laki Ross Jr., the Connellsville Area High School junior football and baseball player shot to death Thursday in a Uniontown home.
Connellsville students are organizing a memorial service at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the high school auditorium to celebrate Darrell's life.
“The kids are the ones that really drove it,” Connellsville football coach and assistant principal David McDonald said. “My phone's been blowing up, and they're like, ‘Mr. McDonald, we've got to do something; Coach, we've got to do something.' ”
Connellsville seniors Marissa Adams and Tayla Taylor, close friends with Ross who both remember him for his humor and the joy he took in making others laugh, knew it would be important to organize an opportunity for those touched by the tragedy to come together and cope.
“We haven't really had a chance to see anyone else talk about it. I feel as kids, it's hard for us to talk about how we feel sometimes, especially with a loss so close to us,” Adams said. “I feel like if they can just see some of their classmates, some adults talk about it more, to let it out and come together as a community and let it out, it will help them with letting him go.”
Adams and Taylor will speak during the ceremony, along with some of Darrell's teammates from the school's football and baseball teams.
Ross died of a single gunshot wound in the head, according to the state Medical Examiner's Office.
Hasani Simpkins, 20, formerly of Philadelphia, was charged with criminal homicide, receiving stolen property and possessing firearms not to be carried without a license. He remains in the Fayette County jail without bail and has a preliminary hearing set for Tuesday before District Judge Michael Metros.
Students were reeling from the news of Ross' death on Friday.
“I wasn't going to go to school on Friday, but I did. Whenever I walked in, you could just feel the energy wasn't the same,” Taylor said. “There wasn't one person that wasn't crying. We were just all upset about it.”
“Especially as a school, I feel like we're one big family right now. Pretty much everyone in school knew him, so we're all just there for each other,” Adams added. “I remember (Friday) at school, I was hugging people I didn't even know.”
Visitation will be at Vito C. Martucci Funeral Home in Connellsville from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and from 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Darrell, he made everybody laugh,” McDonald remembered. “I think we need a night of celebrating how he touched people and made everybody laugh. I think the whole goal is going to be to remember all those positive things and all the humor he brought into so many people's lives and how special he made a lot of people feel.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.