Wythe County remembers murder victims with candlelight vigil
Nearly 100 people stood in the cold Monday night to honor the lives of two young men killed late Tuesday night. Friends and families of Aidan Dawson and Ray Rodriguez held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to say goodbye.
Rodriguez's father, William Rodriguez, said it was a hard day for he and his wife and Ray's nine brothers and sisters.
William recalled when police arrived at his home at 3:00 in the morning to inform them his son was dead.
He said, "I just couldn't imagine, I couldn't register at the time, I didn't understand in my mind what he was saying. And I said, 'Are you saying my son is gone?' And he said, 'Yes, he's gone.'"
Ray was adopted by the Rodriguez family when he was young, and it's clear the aspiring rap singer was deeply loved.
"He was not a perfect child, but he was a good boy," Rodriguez said. "He loved his family."
Rodriguez said his family has been together the whole day Wednesday, at least in pairs of two, so no one would be alone. But one person he's thinking a lot of is Ray's 4-year old daughter.
"I know it's going to be very difficult for her to grow up without a dad, even worse than what it will be for us to continue to grow without our son," he said.
At the candlelight vigil, before the moment when everyone held up their candles and two heart shaped balloons were released into the sky, two people who knew Aidan and Ray well got up to speak.
A friend of Aidan said, "Aidan was a joy, I'm telling you man. I had some fun times with that kid."
Ray's brother said, "I'll never get to hear his voice, he'll never get to grow old with me, he'll never see any kids I have, he'll never see his daughter again."
The friend of Aidan also said, "I'm so glad these killers can rot in hell for the rest of their lives. I pray to God that they rot in hell for the rest of their lives."
Ray's father was asked if he had any message for the three teenagers arrested for the murders.
He said, "I don't hold a grudge against you. But I do think that you should be punished for what you've done."
He went on to say, "I pray that you boys that were involved in this, that you will find your peace with God and your forgiveness that you desperately will need if your life is going to go on at all."
He also said he's confused why friends of his son and Aidan would do this.
"I'm going to miss him dearly, greatly, because he truly was a good son."
William also discussed his final memory of his son.
He said around Thanksgiving Ray asked if his parents would be putting up Christmas lights this year, and he was excited to see them. In his honor, they'll do their biggest display this year.
And Rodriguez said Withers Park was the perfect spot for the vigil, as it is where holiday lights and decorations are already set up.