PHOTOS One year later: Slain Gulf Coast High student remembered

Arienne Branco, 17, left, comforts a friend during a candlelight vigil for their friend Jake Couture on Saturday at Max Hasse Community Park in the Golden Gate Estates. Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the shooting death of Couture at an East Naples apartment complex. Lexey Swall/Staff

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Arienne Branco, 17, left, comforts a friend during a candlelight vigil for their friend Jake Couture on Saturday at Max Hasse Community Park in the Golden Gate Estates. Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the shooting death of Couture at an East Naples apartment complex. Lexey Swall/Staff

— Last New Year’s Day Jake Couture, 17, was shot to death.

This New Year’s Day, his father spoke of a smile in heaven while tears streamed down young faces at the one year anniversary vigil held at Max A. Hasse Jr. Community Park in Golden Gate Estates on Saturday night.

Craig Couture said that what he remembered most about his son was his smile.

They could reunite again in heaven because he took Jesus Christ as his savior, he said.

“I am comforted and I am assured that I will see his smile again. We will be able to hug again,” he said.

“Don’t be confused by that,” followed Jake’s mother Jeannie Couture. “You all know Jake as being very human, a normal teenaged kid,” she said.

Being Christian doesn’t make a person perfect, but rather allows a person to acknowledge their sins and become better, she said.

About 80 people, many of whom were classmates from Gulf Coast High School, gathered in front of the family and large photographs of the smiling Couture on a table in the center of the outdoor basketball court of the park.

Caitlyn Yeaw, 17, organized the evening to honor her friend and former classmate.

“We are just so humbled,” said the boy’s father Craig, as candles flickered, casting shadows on the many young faces gathering before him.

“I mean to have so many people show their support for him and for us. It’s healing. It’s just what the Lord knew we needed this first year,” said Craig Couture.

Austin Masse, 18, remembered the smiles Jake Couture put on other people’s faces.

“You could be having the worst day and he’d make you laugh some how,” Masse said. “He was just witty with his remarks,” he said.

Masse and Couture were seven years old when they first met in the North Naples private school, First Baptist Academy, Masse said. They met again in public school about seven years later, he said.

“He was still the same little funny kid I remembered,” Masse said.

He described Couture as someone people could talk to when they were in need.

“If you had family or girl problems you could always turn to him and he was a good listener and always gave good advice,” Masse said.

James Menard, 24, is suspected in the shooting death of Couture and faces a maximum life sentence in prison if convicted of the second-degree murder. Menard has a procedural court appearance scheduled Jan. 7.

Witness statements suggest the shooting erupted in the parking lot of the gated North Naples apartment complex, Brittany Bay, when Mernard and his group of friends sought retaliation over an alleged robbery by Couture’s group of friends at Brittany Bay Apartments earlier in the day.

Couture was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Yeaw said, but wasn’t involved in drugs or the other things people may think from hearing of the way he died.

Couture and Yeaw were friends since attending seventh grade together at First Baptist Academy, she said.

“Jake wasn’t perfect, but nobody is,” Yeaw said. “He wasn’t a bad kid,” she said. “He was a very outgoing person. There was never a dull moment.”

Yeaw spent the first day of the New Year remembering their time together at the mall and at the beach.

“And how empty I feel without him,” she said.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SPECIAL SECTION ABOUT THE JAKE COUTURE SHOOTING »

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911 CALLS FROM JAKE COUTURE SHOOTING

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