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Candlelight vigil to remember Melissa Jenkins - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Candlelight vigil to remember Melissa Jenkins

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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. -

Sorrow in the kingdom. Hundreds of students, parents and community members gathered outside St. Johnsbury Academy Tuesday to mourn the loss of slain high school science teacher Melissa Jenkins.

"Words just can't describe the pain," said former student Christine Bennett.

The pain of Jenkins' tragic end is a reality many are still struggling to process just hours after police declared her death a homicide. Jenkins' body was discovered Monday in Barnet -- 15 miles from where a family friend found her car abandoned and her toddler unharmed inside. More evidence was collected from the Comerford Dam crime scene Tuesday, but police released few other details. It's unclear if they're any closer to finding her killer.

"It still just doesn't seem real. She was so amazing and close to everybody in the community and in the school. It still just hasn't hit home yet," said Crystal Reed, Jenkins' former student.

Hugs and tears rippled through the crowd Tuesday night as students silently illuminated hundreds of memory bags in Jenkins' honor. Each one burned brightly, with a personalized message of love, for the popular teacher and coach.

"She was an amazing woman. She had such a passion for teaching. I enjoyed every minute with her," said Bennett.

St. Johnsbury Academy assistant headmaster Beth Choiniere said, "Regardless of what happens love always wins and so I think the students have embraced that."

But Choiniere says Jenkins' death has taken a toll on this tight-knit community. She's doing her best to comfort grieving students while mourning the loss of her own co-worker and friend.

"We've got a big family here and so there's lots of love and support here and we'll just hold on to one another," Choiniere said.

The academy plans to ease student back into the classroom Wednesday. Counselors will be on hand for grieving students.

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