Johnathan ‘Johnny’ Benjamin-Adams, a resident of West Hartford, was reported missing on July 12, 2020, from Hampshire County, WV, and was confirmed dead on July 18.
By Ronni Newton
Johnathan “Johnny” Benjamin-Adams, 14, who graduated from King Philip Middle School in West Hartford in the spring and planned Hall High School as a freshman this fall, has died, the Hampshire County (WV) Sheriff’s Office has confirmed.
According to the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office, a 16-year-old relative of the West Hartford teen has been arrested and charged with burglary, but the connection between those charges and the death of the teen was not provided.
Officials said that they have developed a suspect in the death of the teen, and the investigation is continuing, and anyone with further information is asked to call 304-822-3894.
Johnny had been reported missing Sunday from the home of relatives in Hampshire County, WV, where he had been visiting for the past few months and was due to return home to West Hartford this weekend.
The Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office posted a message on their Facebook page late Saturday afternoon, indicating that the search for Johnny had been called off after investigators located a shallow grave at approximately 11:20 a.m. Saturday containing a set of human remains which they believe belong to the West Hartford teen.
The West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston will confirm the information once an autopsy is completed.
Officials, who had searched an area of about 130 acres, said the remains were located in a heavily wooded area not far from the Golden Acres area near Augusta in Hampshire County, WV, where Johnny had been staying.
“The area of the recovery was extremely difficult to access due to heavy underbrush,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office told We-Ha.com, regarding a request for information, that all details that could be disclosed were provided in the press release posted on their Facebook page.
Johnny was a past participant in the West Hartford Youth Baseball and Basketball leagues.
Family, friends, and former teachers took to Facebook Saturday morning as information about the teen’s death was shared by some family members, prior to the official confirmation from law enforcement.
Beatrice Adams of West Hartford, Johnny Benjamin-Adams’ aunt, posted the tragic news on her Facebook page early Saturday morning. The family had offered a reward of $10,000, later increased to $20,000, for information leading to the discovery and safe return of Johnny, who was reported missing on July 12.
“So very sorry for this awful tragedy. My heart goes out to the entire family. There are no words for such a loss,” one person posted.
A GoFundMe campaign had been established by relative Christina Sanchez in order to raise money for the search, and as of Saturday had raised more than $8,000. An update was posted following the news of Johnny’s death, indicating that the funds would be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Polly Klaas Foundation.
West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore said Saturday that counselors will be available and communication will be forthcoming from King Philip Principal Joy Wright and Hall Principal Dan Zittoun.
“I and the entire West Hartford Public Schools family are devastated by the loss of one of our children. Johnny was loved at King Philip by those who were fortunate enough to get to know him,” Moore said.
Later Saturday, West Hartford Public Schools sent the following letter to families with students at King Philip Middle School and Hall High School:
Dear Hall High School and King Philip Middle School Families,
It is with profound sadness that we share with you news of the death of our student Johnny Benjamin-Adams, an alumnus of King Philip Middle School and rising 9th grader at Hall. He was reported missing on July 12th in West Virginia, and there had been a statewide search to find him. Johnny’s smile could light up a room, and he was active in community sports. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and know that this will be a very sad time for Johnny’s family, friends, and teachers.
We encourage you to talk with your child. How we, as adults, manage ourselves serves as an important model for helping children handle tragedies like this. They must know they are loved and supported as they talk about their feelings.
You may want to consider the following when talking with your child:
Allow for your child to talk about feelings. If this is the first loss your child has experienced, your child may not know how to respond and will be looking for your guidance.
Affirm all expressions. It’s okay to express feelings honestly. Tolerate the expressions rather than dismissing them or discouraging the expression of feelings.Encourage written expressions such as notes, letters, pictures to the family, etc. If you send it in or drop them off at KP, we will transport this to the family. For everyone’s safety, we will have a labeled box outside of KP.
Reaffirm that your child is safe and that your child is loved.
Affirm that your child’s reaction is normal, and you understand the way the child feels.
Watch for signs of trouble such as aggression, withdrawal, etc.
Help the children return to a routine as soon as possible.
These resources, When Grief/Loss Hits Close to Home: Tips for Caregivers from the National Association of School Psychologists, and Helping Children Deal with Grief and Loss can help you support your child during this time. Anyone who wants to talk to a school counselor will have a team of counselors, social workers, and psychologists available to support you. You can request to Speak with a Counselor using this form or by calling (959)-255-0338 and leaving a message, and someone will contact you within 24 hours. If you need immediate assistance, please call 211 or 911.
There is little we can say or do to remove the sting of pain we all feel. Our hearts and thoughts are with Johnny’s family.
Your Partners in Education,
Daniel Zittoun, Principal, Hall High School and Joy K. Wright, Principal/Lead Learner King Philip Middle School
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