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Mother of shooting victim shares about her daughter

This image of Jessica Carlton was posted on the Jessica Hope Memorial Fundraiser on Facebook.

By Richard Rourk

Although details are sparse and the investigation remains ongoing and in its early stages, one undeniable fact is that a shooting in Unicoi last week claimed the life of 18-year-old Jessica Hope Carlton.

 
According to Unicoi Police Chief Andy Slagle, Carlton died in the shooting that took place after midnight on June 24 in a residence on Marbleton Road in Unicoi.
Connor Bear Cleveland, 22, has been detained and charged with Carlton’s murder, according to Unicoi County Sheriff Michael Hensley, who also noted that Unicoi Police, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department investigators and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation personnel worked the scene of the shooting.
 
“We were able to apprehend the suspect,” Hensley said. “This is an ongoing investigation, so that’s all I can say at this time. Our prayers go out to this family.”
Carlton’s mother, Heather Holder, a resident of Maryville, Tennessee, told The Erwin Record that her daughter had been staying with friends in Jonesborough but had only been in the area since March.
 
Holder, who spoke to the newspaper Monday, June 28, shortly after a Celebration of Life held to honor her daughter’s memory. Holder described her daughter as a vibrant young woman just starting her life. 
 
“She was so sweet and caring,” she said. “If you were down, Jessica would go out of her way to make you feel better. She had an infectious smile that radiated. Her light shined bright.”
 
Holder also described her daughter as innocent and naive. “She was easily let into some things she should not have been into,” Holder said. “It was very senseless.”
 
The Celebration of Life service held for Carlton took place in the event space at Starr Mountain Distillery in Etowah, Tennessee.
 
Contributed Photo • Heather Holder is shown with her daughter at Jessica’s graduation from Bethel Christian Academy.

“There was such an outpouring of love,” Holder said. “Several of her classmates and teachers showed up from when she attended Bethel Christian Academy in Chattanooga. So many people wrote down stories about how Jessica touched their lives, and now I have those cards to keep.”

 
In the meantime, the man charged with the shooting is being held at the Unicoi County Jail. Cleveland has been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia,  possession Schedule XI, two counts of felony reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a firearm and second degree murder.
 
Unicoi County Assistant District Attorney Todd Hull confirmed that Cleveland was arraigned Monday, June 28, and is scheduled to appear again in court on Thursday, July 1. Cleveland is being held on a $500,000 bond.
 
Holder reflected on the fact that her daughter left behind many family members and friends, as well as some furry friends.
 
“She loved animals,” she said. “We always had animals, and Jessica loved them all.”
 
A “Jessica Hope Memorial Fundraiser” was set up on Facebook by Holder’s sister, Julie Schroeder. Anyone wishing to donate to the effort to cover funeral expenses may donate at https://www.facebook.com/donate/556929678634104/?fundraiser_source=external_url. As of June 29, the page had raised $3,150 out of a $5,000 goal.

A “Jessica Hope Memorial Fundraiser” was set up on Facebook by Holder’s sister, Julie Schroeder. Anyone wishing to donate to the effort to cover funeral expenses may donate at  https://bit.ly/3dmosbm. donate/556929678634104/?fundraiser_source=external_url. As of June 29, the page had raised $3,150 out of a $5,000 goal.donate/556929678634104/?fundraiser_source=external_url.