MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Photos of 6-year-old James Hutchinson scrolled across the scoreboard at Barnitz Stadium Tuesday night as nearly 100 strangers and friends packed into the bleachers to grieve his death.
"It’s heartbreaking. It's a tragedy, and as a mother of a 6-year-old, I just think to myself, you know, 'why? Why couldn't you have just chosen to do something else?’” said Middletown parent Jasmine Davis.
The little boy's mother, Brittany Gosney, told police she killed him after trying to abandon the boy and her two other children in a Preble County park.
Arrest records said James tried to get back inside the car before she sped off, dragging him behind.
Search crews have not found his body in the Ohio River, where his mother and her boyfriend, James Hamilton, told police they discarded him.
Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles led the memorial service, where a portrait of the boy painted by Middletown teacher Rick Krebs and his high school art students was unveiled. It will be installed at Rosa Parks Elementary, where the boy was a first grade student.
“Tonight, you saw the biggest hearts in the city of Middletown come out to celebrate the life of James,” Styles told the crowd gathered Tuesday.
At the football stadium, they prayed in English and Spanish as the chief of police hung his head on the sideline.
The little boy's teachers cried, recalling how James scurried down their hallways with a big smile and his hands clinging to the straps of his backpack.
“Show your kids every single night how much you love them and tell them 'I love you.' Every single child deserves to be loved,” Styles said.
Parents said this crime is difficult enough for adults to understand, much less the young ones asking what happened to their classmate.
“The situation is a tragedy all together, and it was heartbreaking having to explain to her, and she still doesn't quite understand," Davis said of her daughter.
Outside his home, a memorial continues to grow. It has doubled in size since Monday, with candles and balloons.
No one is inside the home now -- Gosney and Hamilton are in Butler County Jail on bond, and the boy's siblings have been placed in foster care.