On a snowy Tuesday afternoon, Moriarty High School students, family and community members gathered at a local park to mourn the loss of three sophomore students who died during a sleepover Saturday in Edgewood.
During the vigil, songs known to be favorites of the three teens were played as people listened in silence and close friends and family comforted each other with warm embraces.
“We love you boys,” the crowd shouted in unison as dozens of balloons were released into the sky.
The students, identified by others as Christopher Pearce, 17, Malachi and Nathen died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of a fourth friend’s house in the East Mountains.
Edgewood police are investigating the case but have not released the full names of the teens. The department has not released additional details in the incident.
Remembering Malachi and Nathen
Friends at the vigil described Malachi as a sweet boy who loved his little brother. They said he was the big one of the group but was more introverted and very funny — “always in his own little world.”
A friend of Malachi’s who knew him since third grade said he was always easy-going. “He was funny, always made everybody laugh and smile no matter if he was having a bad day,” he said.
Friends said Nathen would often crack jokes.
His jokes and ability to cheer everyone up was something they would always remember about him. One girl said, “He had such a big heart and so much potential.”
Rocco, a close friend of Nathen, said he knew him since the sixth grade.
“He always had your back, if you needed something he was right there,” he said.
Rocco remembered Nathen’s love for music and skateboarding, adding that “music was his escape.”
He said they would go to Moriarty’s skate park every weekend throughout their middle school years — he was there when Nathen bought his first skateboard.
“He was the dopest kid out there, always had my back.” Rocco said.
Remembering Christopher Pearce
Mackenzie Milligan, Christopher Pearce’s girlfriend, and her father said Nathen was found a few feet from the garage door. She said it appeared he had crawled, trying to get it open. She said Nathen “died a hero.”
Michael Pearce, Christopher’s brother, said he was very energetic and full of life.
He said Christopher loved to work on cars, play video games and was an avid soccer player since he was 3 years old, going on to play for Moriarty High School’s team.
Milligan said although they were just sophomores, the couple had already planned to go to college together at Washington State. They had been together 14 months and “there was never a dull moment.”
Milligan said Christopher wanted to be a mechanic someday and loved fast cars. She said he dreamed of owning a Nissan 370Z, but not the model with a sunroof.
When asked what she would miss most about Christopher, Milligan said “everything.”
“There’s not just one thing I can say,” she said, but then settled on “his smile.”
Milligan said the garage where the three died was the boys’ hangout spot, outfitted with a TV, beanbags, chairs and, of course, video games.
“They were all the same kid, they all played video games, they all had the same haircut,” Michael Pearce said.
Milligan and the others who gathered to grieve on Tuesday huddled from the cold under an awning at a local park to fill dozens of balloons with helium. En masse they trotted to a nearby baseball field, where they listened to music memorializing the trio.
Soon, the sky was filled with balloons — a few blue, many red, some shaped like hearts, disappeared one-by-one into the gray sky. An answer of light snow came down.
Milligan, Christopher’s girlfriend, smiled at the flakes swirling around.
It was fitting, she said. Christopher loved the snow.