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Slain youth was a world traveler and food connoisseur by age 14

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The portrait of 14-year-old Johnny Adams that has emerged in the days since his murder in Hampshire County shows a vibrant, bright, likable youngster whose death just doesn’t add up.

“What was stolen from us was the opportunity to see Johnny reach his potential,” said Corey Jaquez, introduced as Johnny’s oldest cousin at an outdoor service for him last weekend.

Jonathan Benjamin Adams, known to friends and family as Johnny, most likely died after he disappeared on July 12, murdered by an as-yet unidentified suspect in the Golden Acres subdivision just north of U.S. 50 off North River Road east of Augusta. His body was discovered in a shallow grave a week later. 

Family and friends gathered on the lawn of his adoptive parents’ home last Saturday for the 2-hour public memorial.

The youngster they remembered had led a remarkable life, including 3 years of studying the Chinese language.

“He was an athlete, world traveler and at 14, a connoisseur of many fine foods,” his cousin said.

Johnny had traveled to Italy, Spain, Peru, Colombia, Sweden, France and England, his aunt Elizabeth Adams told the Hartford Courant.

He loved basketball, having played on a championship rec league team last winter, and harbored hopes of making the football team at Hall High School in West Hartford, which he was to begin this coming semester.

In an email to families Saturday evening, principals Daniel Zittoun of Hall High School and Joy K. Wright of King Philip Middle School confirmed Jonathan’s death.

“Johnny’s smile could light up a room, and he was active in community sports,” the principals of King Philip Middle School wrote after learning of his death.

He had graduated 8th grade there this spring, studying remotely from Hampshire County after COVID-19 shut down schools in both Connecticut and West Virginia.

Reporting in Hartford-area media said his adoptive parents, Angel and Janis Jaquez, sent him here as the pandemic spread because so many members of his family in Connecticut work in healthcare.

Janis Jaquez is a physician’s assistant and one of his older brothers is a doctor.

So, Johnny headed south to stay with his aunt, a high school teacher, and her six children, another aunt, Elizabeth Adams, told the Courant.

“Jonathan was very, very excited to go,” she told the newspaper.

The teen had spent much of his early childhood in foster homes, relatives told the Hartford newspaper. The Jaquezes adopted him before he reached school age.

“He was so loving,” a cousin, Evan Adams said. “Other than eating, he loved to laugh.”

The Sheriff’s office here has been more silent than usual about the case since Johnny’s death was confirmed July 19.

A press release that day said a 16-year-old relative had been arrested on a burglary charge, but did not provide his name or exact relationship to Johnny as is customary in juvenile cases here.

The office also said a suspect had been identified, but has given no description or issued a call for help in finding the suspect.

Angel Jaquez offered a hint in an interview he did with local television in Hartford.

“It’s a family-related person so you have to balance your emotions and things and maybe not — it’s hard,” he told WFSB, a CBS affiliate.

The sheriff’s office confirmed 3 days later that the West Virginia state medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide, but no details have been released concerning the manner of death.

Ahern Funeral Home in Hartford, identified at Saturday’s memorial service as handling arrangements for Johnny’s funeral, did not have an obituary posted on its website as of Tuesday and said information hadn’t been provided yet.

Johnny’s body has still not been returned to the family in Connecticut, the funeral home said Monday. When it is, Beatrice Adams told the mourners Saturday, a private funeral and burial will be held.

The family is asking that memorial donations be made in Johnny’s name to Unicef.

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