WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Community members gathered Wednesday to honor the life of a West Memphis student after he was found dead in a Mississippi forest.

Star-shaped balloons were rising into the sky with no limit to where they’ll go. It’s a painful reminder of the potential 18-year-old Fredarrious Wilson can no longer reach.

Instead of preparing for prom and graduation, his mother, Shirley Howell, is planning his funeral. Dozens gathered in the parking lot at the Academies of West Memphis to let her know how much her son was loved.

Howell stood among a crowd forming a unity circle in Wilson’s honor. He had last told his mother was going on a date with another student.  

“My son wanted to do art. He wanted to be an architect. They took that,” Howell said.

The Academies of West Memphis senior was reported missing last Monday. Days later, police said his body was found an hour and a half away inside the Holly Springs National Forest in Yalobusha County, Mississippi.

It’s a numbing loss for his family, who says he was shot multiple times.

His mother told WREG she put everything into Fredarrious after she lost another son to gun violence less than two years ago.

“I built the rest of my days around his future and they just took it just like that with no remorse, no nothing. They left my baby out there,” Howell said.

The hurt was also felt by his classmates.

“I’m going to miss how he laughed, talked, and played around in third period. My heart is truly broken because of how genuine he was,” said one of his classmates.

Those who taught him said he was a bright light that was dimmed way too soon.

“He walked into our building every day and he was the model student,” said teacher Jimmy Sloan.

As Howell waits for answers instead of planning her son’s future after graduation, she is sending this message to other young people.

“Teenagers please it ain’t your parents trying to be nosy, just let somebody know where y’all at,” Howell said.

We did reach out to the agencies handling the case but they would not comment at this time.