FALL BRANCH, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Fall Branch School community continues to mourn the loss of one of their students, first-grader Jessie Allen.
Jessie died alongside his grandmother, Sherry Cole, at their home in Greene County, both victims of a gruesome double homicide on April 24.
A 16-year-old suspect has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in their deaths that investigators call “premeditated and intentional.”
Following court hearings on May 12, the teen will remain in a juvenile facility pending a hearing in August, which will decide if he will be tried as an adult.
As Jessie Allen is being remembered, he will forever remain a part of the Fall Branch School community.
“We definitely will miss him, but he will always be with us in our hearts,” said Dr. Jim Wernke, principal of Fall Branch School.
A painting of Jessie’s is on display behind Wernke’s desk, serving as a reminder of his sweet spirit.
“Jessie was a very happy student. He loved Fall Branch School. He loved the teachers here, and our teachers loved him,” said Wernke.
That love remains, and the memories are a comfort during hard times.
“He’d come through the car line every morning. I’d greet him with a smile on his face, ready to go for the day. This was really a home away from his home,” said Wernke.
A community coming together
The Fall Branch School community is rallying on Saturday, May 14 in honor of Jessie.
“He was a great kid. He was just always happy,” said Jana Grills, PTO member.
The school’s PTO is organizing a BBQ fundraiser to benefit Jessie’s surviving family members.
“He was one of our own. It’s a very tight-knit community. We all rally when everybody needs it,” said Grills.
The fundraiser is being held at the school’s baseball field, located right behind the elementary school and across from the Fall Branch Post Office. The event is happening Saturday from noon until six.
As for the entirety of the proceeds?
“It’s going straight to the family,” said Grills. “For whatever they need. I mean that’s the least we can do is to show support.”
Wernke said Jessie’s death serves as a reminder to cherish every little moment with each student and their families.
It’s in the midst of this tragedy, Wernke says the community’s resilience has shone through.
“We’ve all had to pull together. I can’t thank enough our community for their strength and their support because it’s really brought us closer,” said Wernke.
Fall Branch School also raised a total of around $19,000 to help pay for the funerals of Jessie Allen and Sherry Cole.
The school had grief counselors available for students and teachers in the wake of Jessie’s death. Students have also spent time drawing pictures and writing notes to the Allen family and Jessie’s grandfather, Bill Cole.