HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - John Stephen's mother and stepfather cling to their son's prize possession. The 11th grade student had hoped to become a musician some day.
"He was a very loving child. He was very compassionate. He loved his music. He loved his friends; he loved art," John's mother, Jennifer Leitz remembered.
His friends and family called John, J.D. Saturday his young life ended.
"I was with him body surfing, and we were having a good old time. He was catching waves just doing great," said Wesley Scott, J.D.'s grandfather. "I took my eyes off of him for a few minutes, and he was gone. I couldn't find him anywhere. I thought he was chasing girls down the beach or something."
"I knew something was wrong when he said that his shoes and his ipod were still on the beach," Leitz said. "You don't know what to do as a parent. We got there about midnight, and I walked up on the pier where they were. And it just hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew he was gone. That child would have never left his ipod."
Scott advised, "Watch your kids and be mindful of what they are doing, and where they are. Don't leave your eye off of them for a second because I'm going to live with this guilt forever, and I don't want anyone else to have to go through this."
J.D's death is the third for the family in less than five months.
"December 6th my children's father, my ex-husband, he passed away. He had a massive heart attack," Leitz said. "And then in January my oldest daughter had our first grandbaby, and we only got 17 days with her. February 15th is when she passed away."
And now she mourns the loss of her only son.
"Cherish every 'I love you' because that's what I think I'm going to miss the most. Cause he'd always come home from school and say, 'Hey, Mom, I love you,'" Leitz said. "Saturday mornings especially, he'd get up and come in there he'd come kiss my forehead and say, 'Mom, I love you. Good morning.' Just cherish every moment cause it could be gone in an instant."
An account has been set up under J.D.'s mother's name Jennifer Leitz to help the family with burial expenses. You can make a donation at any Region's Bank Branch.