Family, friends remember slain teen with candlelight vigil

Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:40:58 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 19 2014 04:39:14 PM EDT

Loved ones held a vigil for 15-year-old Bryan Layfield who was died Sunday after being shot at the home he shared with his stepmother.


It was a bittersweet evening Wednesday for Amanda Helmkin as family and friends lit candles to remember her son Bryan Matthew Layfield.

Her sadness was mixed with joy as she stood in tears, comforted by family, in front of the Westside home where the 15-year-old was shot and killed on Sunday.

“It brings joy to my heart; it does, to see that he was so loved by so many people,” Helmkin said. “He will always always have a place in somebody's heart.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is still investigating the death of the teen (pictured below), known as Mattman because of his middle name and the fact he loved Batman.

“I want answers,” Helmkin said. “I want to know. I don't want to know the details. I want to know who did it (and) why they did it.”

JSO said someone shot Layfield Sunday night at the home where he lived with his stepmother, who police arrested and charged with evidence tampering.

Layfield's stepmother, Christy Files, first told officers someone shot Layfield in the backyard and she saw two suspects fleeing over the fence, but investigators later found a bloody .22-caliber rifle in the attic. Files then said he was shot accidentally inside the home, and she hid the firearm in the attic.

With signs reading “Justice for Mattman” and “We Miss You,” those at the vigil chose to focus on good memories of the teen who loved family and football.

“He had all these uncles and cousins and (was) just as rough and tough with them,” Helmkin said. “That's all he wanted to do. Play football.”

From family who knew Layfield from the beginning to friends he met more recently, those at the memorial said the teen left a mark in his short life.

“It's just never going to be the same without him,” said Daphnie Barber. “Cause he was just a fun kid to be around. The little bit of time I got to be around him, I wish I was around him a lot more."

“We miss Mattman,” said his uncle John Erwin. “We know that God's got him now and we know that as a family we're committed to staying focused and stay committed to each other and to be strong."

A family staying strong and encouraging other families to take an extra bit of caution when it comes to guns and children.

“If you feel the need that you have to have a gun in your home, keep it away from children,” Helmkin said. “They think it's a game. They think that it's OK to do this and play with it and stuff. It's not.”

Layfield's funeral is scheduled for Sunday.


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