Photo by Nick Fiala

Locals gathered at a parking lot in Rensselaer where Valentine was known to hang out to honor his memory with a candlelight vigil on Sunday night.

In the days following the death of Rensselaer Central High School student Jared Valentine, locals have endeavored to support one another and to support Valentine’s grieving family. This has taken the form of a candlelight vigil, which drew a noticeably l large crowd, as well as a bank fund to help the family with funeral costs. New information has also come to light about the Rensselaer Police Department’s investigation into Valentine’s murder, which took place while he was working at the Rensselaer Arby’s on Thursday, Feb. 22.

The police investigation

On Friday, Feb. 23, affidavits were filed by Daniel White of the RPD, documenting its initial investigation into Valentine’s murder. Details of what happened are contained therein.

The department received a 911 call to the scene at around 7:10 p.m. on Thursday night, reporting a stabbing had taken place at Arby’s. Jasper County Deputies also responded to the scene and began emergency medical treatment for Valentine, noting three wounds — two on his chest and one on the left side of his abdomen. He was taken to Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Illinois by Prompt medics. Later on, at 8:54 p.m., the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department told the RPD Valentine had died from his injuries.

The suspect, former Arby’s employee Raymond Dhliwayo, had fled from the restaurant after the stabbing took place. He had been working there with Valentine. With information from employees, officers found and arrested him at 7:52 p.m., near the Pak-a-Sak on South College Avenue. He was found sitting on the curb at that location with a sheathed six-inch filleting Rapala knife sitting on the ground next to him.

Police Chief Matt Anderson was checking Dhliwayo for injuries when he was heard saying “I’m sorry for what I did.” An officer spoke with Dhliwayo at the scene, while White recorded what was happening with a department issued body camera. Dhliwayo said the knife was his and that he was sorry for hurting Valentine, who he specifically identified by his first name.

Later, while being interviewed at the Jasper County Jail, Dhliwayo said Valentine had made an insulting comment to him while they were working at Arby’s, but he would not say what that comment was. He said that he then went to his van, grabbed the knife and went back inside Arby’s.

According to a witness at the scene, Valentine walked inside the ice machine in the back of the restaurant, when Dhliwayo approached him from behind and began to stab him. Valentine turned his body to attempt to get away from Dhliwayo.

While being questioned at the jail, Dhliwayo expressed remorse for what he had done.

The vigil to honor Valentine

Despite the night’s cold temperatures, well over 100 relatives, classmates and community members gathered together at a parking lot along North Front Street in Rensselaer on Sunday, Feb. 25. The parking lot was chosen since it had been known as a place where Valentine liked to hang out with his friends. Nearly everyone in attendance that night could be seen holding a burning candle, as they cried, laughed and hugged one another while listening to people share thoughts and memories of their time with Valentine.

The vigil was led by Pastor Ken Groves of New Life Community Church in Lake Village. As he stood in the center of the large circle of candle-bearers, Groves shared his own sadness at Valentine’s loss, due to his relationship with the family. He also shared some words on the family’s behalf.

“The community…has pulled together and supported them, and they just wanted to thank you.” Groves said.

Groves also emphasized the important role Valentine played for everyone.

“We’re just people hurting here tonight,” Groves said. “He’s had an impact on people’s lives in what he was and who he was.”

He then invited anyone who wished to share thoughts or memories of Valentine with the rest of the group.

“I’ve heard some stories already,” Groves said. “It doesn’t matter who you are.”

One of the first to speak was an older friend of Valentine’s who worked with him at Arby’s

“I’d come in, that kid would make me smile every time,” she said. “I’m so glad I had the honor of knowing him.”

Others also shared their pain at his loss.

“Jared was a bright spot in a sometimes very dark world,” one attendee said. “I was questioning why would God let this happen. God placed Jared here to show us all how we should live our lives…to let us all know how easy it is to love somebody…We all know he’s in a much better place…Remember that smile…how he touched everybody.”

Though the mood was somber, there were some humorous stories which were recalled. One friend of Valentine even said that he was known to perform “donuts” in the very parking lot where everyone was standing.

“We just thought you should know he was a really bad driver,” she said, to laughs from the crowd.

People shared other humorous stories, as well as moments where Valentine had done something good for them to cheer them up.

“You’ve got to think about the good stuff, as hard as that is right now,” one person said. “He knows we all love him…He’s not gone. He’s here. He’s with all of us.”

Other people who had worked with Valentine at Arby’s were there in attendance.

“I just wanted to thank my Arby’s crew for being here for me,” one person said. “I’m here for all of you.”

In response, someone notably called out “We love you, too.”

“No one can compare to Jared,” one person said. “He was one of a kind.”

As everyone finished sharing memories, Groves shared a message of hope and encouragement for the crowd.

“I think what we’ve learned here tonight…was that he would want us…to keep on loving each other,” Groves said. “He’s not sad right now…He reached out to everybody.”

He said one of the lessons Valentine taught them all was to be a joyful person who cared for others.

“Carry that flame of looking out for your neighbor and loving your neighbor,” he said, “and just have joy.”

Local woman Angie Walker later wished to announce that a bank account has been set up to assist the Valentine family with the unexpected costs they are incurring due to the loss of “their kindhearted, loving son Jared.”

The bank account is set up at Alliance Bank. Walker wrote that anyone wishing to donate may do so by going to the bank at 501 South College Avenue in Rensselaer or by mail at Alliance Bank, P. O. Box 278 in Rensselaer. Checks should be made payable to “Jared Valentine Memorial.”

“Let’s pull together as a community and help the Valentine Family through these tough times,” Walker wrote. “All donations, no matter how small are greatly appreciated!”