Thomasville Times Enterprise

March 10, 2014

Young fire victim remembered

Patti Dozier

THOMASVILLE — A playful little boy who died in a Sunday predawn Meigs house fire had a magical smile that brought joy to his teachers.

Recalling the smile of Jaboris Copeland, a fourth-grader at Cross Creek Elementary School, now brings tears to the teachers’ eyes.

The boy’s body was found early morning in the charred rubble of a brick house on Palmer Road.

The initial 12:25 a.m. call was that the house and several vehicles in the yard were on fire, and people were trapped in the dwelling, said Chris Jones, Thomas County fire chief.

When firefighters arrived, they learned a child was still in the house.

Because of flames throughout the inside of the structure, interior fighting of the fire was not possible, Jones explained. Two vehicles were on fire.

A male relative who lives at the house told firefighters he woke up others who lived there. The house was full of smoke, and the fire grew quickly, Jones said.

The relative, two other children and the boy’s grandmother, who owned the house, escaped. The grandmother, Queen Copeland, was transported to Archbold Memorial Hospital for treatment.

“To my knowledge, the other children had no injuries,” the chief said.

Bars were on windows and two doors of the house.

The boy’s body was found in a bedroom.

The cause of the blaze remained undetermined Monday afternoon.

The child’s mother, Thomasina Hobbs, is a paraprofessional at Hand-in-Hand Primary School.

Heather Butler, a fourth-grade Cross Creek math teacher, said “Jay” was a strong leader in her classroom.

“He loved sports and outdoor activities. Whenever we played kickball at recess, Jay would be the one who would get the game and players organized. All the players would be in their correct positions, and he would see to it that the game was played correctly,” Butler said.

She described the boy as “a very good student and would complete his assignments to the best of his ability.”

Butler will miss the boy’s playful side.

“He had a smile that could easily get him out of any little problem he may have had,” she said.

Butler will always remember the child fondly.

“He was well loved by his teachers and classmates, and will be deeply missed,” she explained.

Monday would be a tough day at the school, said Cross Creek Principal Clay Stanaland.

According to Stanaland, Jaboris was a model student who arrived daily with a smile on his face and wanted to better himself each day.

“As several of the teachers put it, ‘He made you want to come to work.’ He will definitely be missed by all students and faculty,” Stanaland said.

Kari Holm, Jaboris’ homeroom teacher, also taught the child English, language arts and science.

“He was the most fun, playful, mischievous,” Holm said.

Holm said Jaboris was a great leader with the other children. “This is going to crush them,” she explained.

Because his mother reported to work early at another county school, Jaboris arrived at school early.

The child was always the first one at school, Holm said. He liked to hide in the classroom and jumped out and try to scare the teacher. Holm eventually began entering the classroom, letting Jaboris know she was aware of his presence and was not frightened.

More than anything else, a tearful Holm said, she will miss Jaboris’ “electrifying smile.” The boy attended class every day and was willing to work, the teacher said.

Class pictures were taken Friday. Holm will ensure Jaboris’ mother revives her son’s photographs.

 In an effort to locate an area or point of origin of the blaze, Thomas County firefighters assisted a state fire marshal at the fire scene Monday in going through burned debris.

“It’s very labor intensive,” the fire chief said.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.