BINGHAM — Family and friends of 24-year-old Jillian Jones gathered at a candlelight vigil Sunday evening to remember the young woman stabbed to death at her Augusta apartment Wednesday.
About 150 people, including many young people, gathered in a field behind Quimby Middle School, holding candles and balloons and wearing string necklaces with a picture of Jones, who grew up in Bingham.
A thin blonde who was attending beauty school in Waterville, Jones was remembered as a sweet and loving person by her many friends in the small town, where almost everyone seemed to know her family.
Tim LeRoy Brown, the vigil’s organizer and a close friend of Jones, said he hoped that people would talk about their memories of her.
“I called her my sister,” said Brown, 24, who lives in Fairfield. He said he met Jones in high school, when he moved to Bingham from Connecticut seven years ago. The two were students at Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School. Her smile and friendly face reminded him of a friend he had left behind and the two instantly became friends, bonding over their shared love of dancing and laughing at the fact that although Brown was a better dancer, Jones would try to keep up with him.
She loved the pop singer Katy Perry because it was the kind of music she could dance to, said Brown.
On Wednesday Jones was found stabbed to death at the Crosby Street apartment in Augusta where she lived with her boyfriend, Justin Pillsbury, 38. Pillsbury was charged with murder Friday afternoon at MaineGeneral Medical Center, where he was being treated for self-inflicted stab wounds.
On Sunday, Jones’ friend and a former roommate Brittney Kirk, 23, was collecting thoughts and prayers on a balloon at the vigil in memory of Jones.
“She was a beautiful soul, a caring, loving and non-judgmental person,” said Kirk, of North Anson. “We used to say we were sisters always and forever and if we were writing it we would sign xxoo at the end,” she said.
Kirk said she met Pillsbury a few times and that he and Jones had been dating on-and-off for about two years. They would be together for a few weeks or months, split up, and then get back together, she said. When asked if he had ever hurt her, she said it was “never anything like this.”
Other friends shared memories of Jones growing up in Bingham and recalled the love she had for her three-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.
“She was the sweetest girl. She was very kind and loved her family,” said Deborah Plourd, of Bingham, who attended the vigil with her daughter, Jillian Plourd, a friend of Jones.
Julie Richard, principal at Valley High School, said Jones’ death has been hard on the entire town.
“In a small community like this, it really shakes people. They want to join in and give what they have, whether it is through a vigil or otherwise,” she said. The purple lights and ballons, she pointed out, were Jones’ favorite color but were also chosen to symbolize awareness of domestic violence.
“The whole town is having a hard time. It shouldn’t have happened,” said Tess Lawyerson, of Bingham. She said her children grew up with Jones and that she remembered her as a happy, loving child.
“She was a great light, always bursting with energy,” said Joshua Cohen, a friend of Jones and Brown’s fiance. He said that although Jones had been through a lot in her life — she was sentenced to 90 days in jail in 2012 after her 18-month-old toddler swallowed cocaine — she was recently focused on making life better for her daughter.
Pillsbury is in custody at the Kennebec County jail. Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland said Sunday afternoon that he did not yet know when Pillsbury might make his first appearance in court.
Stephanie Gray, a friend and former roommate of Pillsbury’s who now lives in Florida, said by email Sunday that Jones’ death was a shock. Even though she had moved away, Gray said she keeps in touch with Pillsbury through Facebook and that he had seemed fine lately.
“I’ve known Justin since I was 17, about 13 years now and I’ve never known him to hurt a fly. He loves his kids and he loved that girl more than anything, so none of this makes sense to any of us,” she wrote.
Rachel Ohm— 612-2368[email protected]