Family mourns the loss of teen, rising track star killed in Memphis

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:20 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A family is mourning the loss of a beloved son and rising star, and demanding answers about his death.

His high school coach told me athletes like James Parnell, Jr. (JP) don’t come along that often.

JP was a junior, already with a college scholarship and a GPA close to a 3.0. His family says he was the kind of son anyone would be proud to have, a son who just won a high jump competition a few days before he was shot and killed.

“He was very smart, very smart, very funny, happy, loved to eat, to try different food, loved to talk to try different food, loved to talk, loved to joke a good child,” said JP’s father, James Parnell, Sr.

Parnell and his family gathered outside the track at Raleigh Egypt High where his son practiced and learned.

Raleigh Egypt boys track coach, Thurston Rubin, said the junior was a natural athlete, playing football, baseball, and track. On May 1, Rubin says J.P. came in first place in the high jump at six feet.

“College coach saw him and even though he was a junior, offered him a scholarship at the decathlon that following Monday at the city championship,” said Rubin.

Memphis police arrested John Moore in the shooting death of the teenager. Investigators say Parnell’s sister dropped him off at Moore’s home round 2:30 p.m. May 5. Neighbors reported hearing gunshots around 11:30 p.m. The next day, police found J.P. with several gunshot wounds in the yard of a nearby house. Investigators say Moore’s fiancé said he found J.P. in his daughter’s bedroom. A fight started and the fiancé said Moore shot J.P. who was running away.

JP’s devastated track mates gathered in a huddle to remember him after practice.

“For them to lose a brother and a teammate, kind of took their hearts out.”

Raleigh Egypt girls track coach, Jamie Chambers, said J.P. was special. She taught him since middle school and said he was always very respectful. She adds she and other coaches saw his potential in the ninth grade.

“He just could do anything,” said Chambers.

“I just want justice for my nephew. I’m not going to lie. I just want justice for him,” said J.P.’s great aunt, Ethel Alexander.

Moore is charged with second-degree murder. He is behind bars here at 201 Poplar on a $250,000 bond.

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