One look at her Facebook page and you know Jaelynn Willey was a gentle, kind 16-year-old who loved swimming and nature. A girl filled with promise and dreams.
A girl whose life was violently stolen when she was shot at Great Mills High School by Austin Rollins, 17, a boy she’d dated and recently broken up with.
Jaelynn’s family took her off life support Thursday night after announcing their daughter was brain dead, with “…no life left in her.”
Here’s you need to know about Jaelynn:
1. Jaelynn’s Family Announced Thursday Night ‘There’s Nothing, No Life Left in Her’ & Took Jaelynn Off Life Support
“Our lives changed completely and totally forever,” Melissa Willey said during a brief press conference. “My daughter was hurt by a boy who shot her in the head and took everything from our lives.”
Melissa and her husband Daniel Willey, with baby in tow, addressed the media briefly at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center.
Melissa said her daughter was brain dead and “she will not make it” so the decision to remove her from life support: “…there’s nothing, no life left in her.”
“I feel like as her mom, I needed to make that statement to everybody,” she said, shaken. “I felt like it was our place, mine and my husband’s to make that statement.”
Melissa Willey also offered thanks: “We are grateful for the care my daughter has gotten,” she said.
And there was little left to be said.
2. A YouCaring Fundraising Page Was Created to Help Jaelynn’s Family
A YouCaring fundraising page was created by Lucinda Avis for the Willey family. As of late Thursday night, more than $72,000 had been raised in donations made by around 1,800 people. The messages attached to the $5, $10, and $20 donations and more were at once uplifting and heartbreaking. Like the anonymous person who pledged $10 said, “I am so very sorry for your loss. So many of us in Maryland are heartbroken and wish peace for your family. Blessings for all who knew and loved her.”
A Facebook fundraising group page was also created Thursday.
On the YouCaring page, Avis posted two messages for people that landed on the page to update them on Jaelynn’s condition and ask for prayers for her family.
“Today all of our local schools are back in session, except for Great Mills High School. Jaelynn remains the same, still in critical condition. Your amazing support is so very, very wonderful. Please continue to pray for healing for Jaelynn, and please also remember to pray for her parents as they are at the hospital with her. Please pray for her siblings and send love to them as well. This is an amazing tight-knit family full of love that you are helping. Your generous donations and many, many good thoughts and prayers are so appreciated.
Avis added: “Today the snow fell thick and wet in southern Maryland, closing the schools down which seemed only fitting. Jaelynn loves the snow. I wish that she had been home today to sled with her little siblings. Instead it’s been 36 hours of being in critical condition after she was shot at her high school, a place that should be safe. I wish that I had some other update to give you all, other than that she is still in critical condition. We are aware that her facebook page has been set to memorialize and we are trying to get facebook to fix it. She is still in critical condition. Your outpouring of donations and love and prayers and support is being felt so deeply by her family and they cannot thank you enough. Please keep praying. Please keep lifting her up. Please keep the love going.”
By Thursday night though, her family let her go.
3. Rollins & Willey Were Dating But Recently Broke Up, Police Say
The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed Wednesday that Rollins and Willey had been in a relationship but that it had recently ended. In a statement, police said, “All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence.” However previously, it was not clear what the relationship was between Jaelynn and Austin Rollins.
St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron initially said earlier a “precise determination of Rollins’ motive may be impossible now that he is dead.”
Rollins’ Facebook page had been set to a “Remembering Austin Rollins” legacy page.
But one friend of Rollins’ was also a friend of Jaelynn’s and set her Facebook profile picture to one of Jaelynn and the Great Mills Hornets logo.
4. Rollins Took His Father’s Licensed Glock Handgun to GMHS Tuesday & Shot Willey in the Head
Before classes had even begun, Rollins, with a semi-automatic handgun, shot Willey in the hallway before the last morning bell rang.
Rollins also hit 14-year-old Desmond Barnes who was injured but treated for his injuries and released from the hospital. A YouCaring fundraiser was also set up for Barnes and raised more than $20,000 to help cover medical expenses.
When Rollins opened fire, the school resource officer Blaine Gaskill exchanged fire and Rollins later died.
5. Jaelynn, One of Nine Willey Children, Loved to Swim & Noted She’d Be Graduating in 2020
Melissa Willey said Jaelynn was one of nine children in the family and the second eldest. Melissa said Jaelynn was a member of the Great Mills High School swim team. And based on the photos on her Facebook page, Jaelynn loved to swim.
On her Facebook page, Jaelynn also posted simple and lovely images of nature, perhaps not the most common thing to find on a teen’s social media account: winter scenes, a simple rose, sunsets and landscapes.
People that never met Jaelynn were moved to post their thoughts on social media. Like Kienna Johnson.
A simple post from a year ago is a now moving and poignant window into the heart of Jaelynn, whose family was forced to make the excruciatingly difficult decision to let their child go Thursday night.