On Tuesday night in Randle, a small town in Lewis County, hundreds came together to remember 16-year-old Benjamin Eastman. They all came together on a bright, sunlit day at the White Pass Junior and Senior High School in Randle. Principal Chris Schumaker helped organize the vigil and in describing Eastman, he admitted it was tough to pull the young man out of the school’s gym, he loved playing sports so much. It was only fitting that the memorial service began in that gym.
Jessica Gleason spoke with the media after the vigil and admitted the community coming together showed each other the impact of the young man’s life. “Today gave me a chance to look and see and notice how many people I think are better people because of him," Gleason said.
Authorities said Eastman was the victim of a crime that Gleason says she’s tried not to think too much about until the vigil approached. “You have to acknowledge what happened,” Gleason says, adding she had not been close to Eastman for some time, but she came to this vigil to make sure that her friendship with him was honored. Indeed, many of the people came with similar stories whether Eastman was a big part of their lives, or just someone who passed through at one point. They all wanted to remember him.
They raised candles and tried to come to terms with the idea that two brothers who knew Eastman have been charged in connection with his murder and rape.
It was more than a week ago when his parents reported Eastman missing. Detectives found his body in Randle on property owned by the suspects’ family.
Authorities took 21-year-old Jonathon Adamson and 16-year-old Benito Marquez into custody.
Schumaker says that the school immediately jumped in to help despite the school year already ending, “When you lose a brother or sister, everybody in a family closes ranks and that’s what we did our education family closed its ranks,” Schumaker said. Schumaker helped organize the vigil with the PTO. He said the goal was to celebrate Eastman’s life,. “Ben was silly. He liked to do shenanigans. I would say he was your typical young man. He liked to challenge teachers,” Schumaker said.
Eastman’s father did not speak to the media at the vigil but the event stayed true to the family’s wishes. The colors of the evening were the signature aqua and orange of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins; the family’s team.
The family silently released balloons with those colors, as people surrounded them in support.
Schumaker said many people in small communities have often said that incidents like a murder seem impossible and unlikely in their towns until it happens. “We’re small town USA. That stuff doesn’t happen here but all of a sudden it does and you’re shocked and you’re scared and you’re shocked and you’re scared some more," Schumaker said.
Gleason said the candles seemed the perfect tribute to the teen. “Everybody could see that that’s who he was a bright brilliant shining soul,” Gleason said.
Approximately 300 to 400 showed up for the vigil at various points from the late afternoon Tuesday into the evening.
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