MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT)-- It's a story that has shocked and saddened many across the Tennessee Valley. A house fire is now linked to capital murder.
Wednesday, a community rallied to remember each of the people killed. A community-organized vigil at Riverton Elementary School became a way for community members, and those who loved Riverton student and victim Clayton Chambers, a chance to say, "We are here."
It was a night of balloons, singing, and prayer. Grief, illumined by candlelight. It's clear by the faces of those who taught and had classes with Clayton at Riverton that he was special.
"This is what we do as a community, we support each other and this is how we get through a tough time like this," said Angie Bates, Madison County Board of Education Representative. "We're just making sure our staff, our teachers, our parents and mostly our kids feel like they have a safe environment someplace they can come and express their anger, their fear."
Many Central Volunteer Fire Department firefighters came too. Their department was one that responded to the fire the day the family's house burned, and their lives were taken too soon.
"They [in the community] hurt and we hurt with them. It's an awful time and we do what we can for them," said Chief Howard Thompson.
Firefighters will be debriefed and counseling is available for the students who need it at school. This vigil marks the start of a long healing process.
School administrators released statements earlier in the day.
Superintendent Matt Massey said,
“We have received confirmation from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office that one of our students at Riverton Elementary died in a horrible tragedy Tuesday afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are with all friends and family, as well as his classmates and teachers.
As a result, we have brought in extra counselors to the school to help our students and faculty try to deal with this tragedy. They will remain a resource for these students and faculty as long as needed.”
Riverton Elementary School Principal Jeff Malone said,
“Our Riverton family is hurting. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and everyone impacted by this tragedy. Our first priority now is to take care of our kids, to make sure they and their parents know that we are here and that we have counselors available to talk to them and help them as they go through the grieving process.”
The circumstances around this case are dark, and information points to a troubled domestic situation. Sheriff's deputies and fire investigators continue to look into exactly what happened to cause the deaths of these four victims and one unborn child.