NAPLES — Lying in the parking lot of a North Naples apartment complex where he was gunned down Friday night, Jake Couture, 17, drew his final breath and spoke his last words to gathered friends: “I love you.”
On Tuesday night, about 1,400 friends and family members reciprocated that feeling, crowding into the First Baptist Church of Naples, 3000 Orange Blossom Drive, to pay their last respects to a young man known for his smile and his ability to make connections across the typical high school boundaries.
“He clearly loved his friends, but he had a deep love for his family and for the Lord,” said First Baptist Senior Pastor Hayes Wicker, who told the story of Couture's last words.
Wicker told the congregation that he doesn’t understand why Couture was killed and reminded the many teenagers in the crowd, for whom death may seem like fiction, that life is, in fact, short. He encouraged them to make good choices and to seek a relationship with God to help them do so.
“We are not to see death as a period, but as a comma,” Wicker said. “For the Christian, death is a door.”
Couture passed through that door around 9:15 p.m. on Friday, when he was shot to death outside an apartment at 14830 Triangle Bay Drive at Brittany Bay Apartments. Two friends, 21-year-old Brandon Standifer and 15-year-old Michael Fleitas were also injured in the shooting, but survived.
A 23-year-old man was arrested just hours after the funeral. James Menard was charged with second-degree murder.
Rumors about who the shooters were and what lead to the shooting ran rampant Friday afternoon around Gulf Coast High School, where Couture was a junior.
“Everybody was talking about it, but there’s no true stories,” said 17-year-old Nicole Cernuto, who is also a junior at the school.
Cernuto, who attended the funeral with friends, described Couture as a “nice guy” who “made everyone laugh,” and didn’t fit in with just one clique of friends. He was a shoo-in for “class clown” or “best smile” when it came time for senior awards next year.
“He was just Jake,” she said. “He was not in a group. He was friends with anyone.”
Cernuto drove past the scene of the shooting on Friday night, but didn’t know what happened until she received a phone call from a friend.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Cernuto said. “He wasn’t that type of kid to be around that stuff.”
Photographs of a shaggy-haired Couture on his four-wheeler, at Christmas, and holding his dog, smiled down on the mourners who waited in line to view his open casket at a viewing between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Couture’s four-wheeler helmet sat atop his casket.
His mother and father, Jeannie and Craig Couture, greeted visitors.
The one-hour funeral service started at 6 p.m. There was no planned burial.
Alexis Schilling, 19, a friend of the Couture family, said she spoke to Jeannie Couture recently, and said the family is struggling.
“I think she’s more in shock than anything,” Schilling said. “I haven’t seen her cry.”
But Wicker said the Couture family is doing “really well,” adding that he’s trying to remind them to be thankful for the 17 years they had with Jake. While they struggle to come to grips with their son’s death, Wicker said they haven’t forgotten about the shooter.
“They are really seeking to forgive the perpetrator,” he said, “and they are praying for him to come to the Lord.”
Tuesday's funeral was especially difficult for Jayme Berger, 17, because it was not her first this past year. Like many Gulf Coast students, Berger was not only friends with Couture, but with 19-year-old Patrick Hutchison, a former Gulf Coast student who was shot and killed last March.
“It’s nuts,” Berger said. “It’s just going through this all over again. Another funeral I have to go to with someone being shot.”
Anyone with information about this shooting is asked to call the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-9300 or, to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).
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Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/
JAKE COUTURE SHOOTING
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- $3M bond set for Jake Couture's accused killer James Matthew Menard
- James Matthew Menard arrested in triple shooting, Jake Couture slaying
- VIDEO: Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announces an arrest in the New Years Day triple shooting that led to the death of Jake Couture.
- 23-year-old charged in triple shooting, Jake Couture slaying
- 1,400 attend funeral for Gulf Coast High’s Jake Couture
- 911 calls from Jake Couture shooting reveal chaos at scene
- Gulf Coast High deals with shock of shooting death of student; Jake Couture funeral tonight
- Gulf Coast High provides counselors to those mourning fellow student’s death
- Editorial: Collier County Sheriff’s Office ... agency should air video from fatal-shooting site
- 3 suspects sought in slaying of Gulf Coast High student; Report says 1 shooter, 5 shots
- Family, friends hold vigil for slain Gulf Coast High student
- Teen, 'friends with everyone,' shot, killed at North Naples apartments; 2 others injured
- 1 killed, 2 injured after shooting at North Naples apartment complex
- Press Conference: Arrest made in Jake Couture slaying
- Photo Gallery: January 5, 2010 - Jake Couture Service
- Photo Gallery: January 3, 2010 - Vigil for Jake Couture
- Facebook.com Gallery posted by family and friends of Jake Couture
- Ongoing photo gallery with photos of Jake Couture posted on Facebook.com by friends and family members
- NBC 2: Bond for teen's accused murderer set at $3M
- NDN VIDEO: Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announces an arrest in the New Years Day triple shooting that led to the death of Jake Couture.
- NBC 2: Sheriff's office: Arrest made in teen's murder
- NBC 2: Funeral held for murdered teen
- NBC 2: One dead, two injured in North Naples apartment shooting
- NBC 2: Collier teen killed in apartment shooting remembered
- NBC 2: 9-1-1 tapes released after fatal shooting
- Read the obituary for Jake Couture and sign the online guest book
- Read the Collier County Sheriff's Office report on the Jake Couture incident (.PDF file)
- Facebook Page: R.I.P Jake Couture. Gone But Never Forgotten
- Initial Collier County Sheriff's Office media release on the incident
- Collier Sheriff's Office Blog: Arrest Made In Triple Shooting
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #1: Four minutes, seven seconds. (.mp3 file)
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #2: Seven minutes, forty-two seconds. (.mp3 file)
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #3: Two minutes, thirty-four seconds. (.mp3 file)
- The Daily News has posted the 911 tapes, acquired from the Collier County Sheriffs Office, to help readers understand the series of events and confusion surrounding Friday night’s fatal shooting at a North Naples apartment complex. 17-year-old Gulf Coast High School junior Jake Couture was killed by a gunshot wound, and Michael Fleitas, 14, and Brandon Standifer, 21, were injured. Some moments of silence exist on the tapes due to sections that have been removed by the sheriff’s office. We caution listeners that some of the content is graphic, and some of the language used may be considered profane and offensive.