His future stretched out before him like a story read at bed time. But it was time to say goodbye to three-year-old Jesse Adams, remembering him as a child who loved adventure.
More than 200 people crowded Greenville's New Destiny Pentecostal Holiness Church Thursday afternoon, reliving memories through a photo montage of a boy who loved fishing, spending time at the pool, and going to the beach with his shovel and pale.
Above all, Jesse's favorite way to have fun was driving through the mud with his mini John Deere tractor. To celebrate his life, toy trucks an tractors were placed on the altar, while a full size John Deere tractor was parked on the front lawn, keeping watch over the church.
Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks attended the service, describing to an emotional audience what went through his mind the night Jesse was killed.
"We tried, but we could not save him," Elks said. "Our hearts have never been so sad."
Elks added the scene remains branded on his mind as one of life's most unfair moments. Reverend Marc Swanner said that one day he hoped to understand the tragedy. Swanner and the church presented Jesse's mother, Christy Pilgreen Adams, with a white linen blanket during the service. The gift symbolized taking comfort through faith.
"I want to say to you in the days to come, when you're trying to make sense of it all, just remember God wants to clothe you," Swanner said. "He will wrap around you in His purest form, just like the warmth from this blanket."
As the service closed, the community released 300 balloons into the sky.
All purple, Jesse's favorite color. A message sent to above that young Jesse will be loved.
A procession was then led to Pamlico Memorial Gardens in Washington where the boy was buried. Christy Adams announced Tuesday she was starting a foundation in honor of her son, hoping to raise awareness about domestic violence.
"The Jesse Ray Adams Foundation has been set up not only to help with the expenses of laying our loved one to rest, but to also help other children who may be in a similar situation," Adams said in a statement released Tuesday. "If we can keep any other families from enduring what we have endured over the last couple of days, it will make Jesse's life all the more memorable."
Donations may be made to the Jesse Ray Adams Foundation, P. O. Box 543, Grimesland, NC, 27837, or memorials may be delivered to any BB&T Bank location.