HAMILTON, Ohio — Neighbors and family members in Hamilton gathered for a vigil Saturday evening to remember 6-year-old Nolen Jones, who died Tuesday after he and his brother were hit by a driver while they crossed the street.
"They just feel blessed," said Kristina Booher, a friend of Jones' family, who helped organize the vigil. "They literally feel blessed. They can't believe the support and love that this community and the surrounding communities have just poured on them."
Nolen and his 11-year-old brother, who is now recovering at home, were crossing Pleasant Avenue in Hamilton's Lindenwald neighborhood when a driver hit them. The driver, 30-year-old Elizabeth Mehl, was charged with drug abuse, OVI and endangering her own children, who were in the car during the crash.
"They're doing the best they can right now," said Booher, who spoke on behalf of Jones' family at the vigil. "They are holding up... They remember the good times, and that's even harder knowing that they're not going to make more of those."
Dozens gathered Saturday evening for the candlelight vigil for the young boy, to remember Jones and to raise awareness of the larger issue of dangerous driving and drug use, which neighbors in Lindenwald said are a big problem for the area.
"The drug use that is very prominent throughout the neighborhoods here," said Booher. "Even at the parks where the kids play, we have to go and check just to make sure there's no needles or anything there."
Organizers and neighbors said they hope to turn anger and frustration into action by bringing attention to Jones' death and the greater issues in the community, so fewer families will have to mourn similar losses.
"He loved Spongebob," said Booher. "He loved adventures. He liked to go on those. He was just a fun-loving kid. He loved life. He loved laughing and smiling."
Since Tuesday, prosecutors have moved to drop Mehl's OVI and child-endangering charges. According to The Journal-News, the charges were not dismissed because of evidence issues, according to prosecutors, but because of the continuing investigation that could end with more charges and to avoid the possibility of double jeopardy.