Star student from Gulfport remembered following murder

Zach McClendon
Zach McClendon
Percy and Paula McClendon
Percy and Paula McClendon

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The holidays can be hard for those who have lost loved ones, but right now it's especially hard for one Gulfport family dealing with the loss of their youngest son 25-year-old Zach McClendon. The 2006 graduate of Gulfport high was studying to get his MBA at Ole Miss.

On Wednesday, a day before he was supposed to come home to Gulfport, he was found by authorities dead from a gunshot wound in his apartment just a few miles away from Oxford.

In the middle of planning his funeral scheduled for Saturday, December 21 his parents sat down with WLOX News to talk about their son and how bright his future was.

But that's exactly what Percy and his wife Paula McClendon have to deal with after their son Zach was murdered just outside Oxford and only a few days before Christmas.

Paula says at noon Tuesday, her son told her he would be home at 6 that night, but that turned out to be the last conversation she would have with her son.

"I thought well maybe he fell asleep and he would surprise us at night and come home and I thought maybe he'll surprise us. You know? Come on in during the night after sleeping, Paula said.

After no sign of Zach and several phone calls, his parents called authorities, who later found the future medical school student dead in his duplex.

"They came to the door and came to us and told us that, 'We're sorry' to tells us that our son was found deceased. And they believe that there was foul play involved," Paula said.

As investigators in Lafayette County work to unravel Zach's death, his parents are remembering the devoted son and student he was.

"My son was just a loving and kind individual that would he'll find joy out of anything. He loved Christmas this is his season. He would do anything for anybody and I don't know how he squeezed so much into a day. But I guess it's by like his work that he's accomplished in the 25 years that he's been on this earth. He was just amazing at how he could fit everyone into his schedule and continue on the path that he was on."

Going so far as to put off his own studies to tutor others, Zach's parents say he couldn't say no to help anyone.

"He was very patient and kind. Anybody who knows him could never tell you they saw him get angry or that he ever heard him say a bad word about anyone. And he would correct us of we even got critical or anything. He would correct us. He was an example for us with the life that he lived," Paula said.

Three suspects accused of robbing and murdering McClendon are behind bars. The victim's parents told me this is their second son shot and killed while away at college.

The couple says they lost another child more than a decade ago, but did not want to go into detail.'

If you are interested in attending Zach's visitation and funeral it is Saturday, December 21. It will be at Pass Road Baptist Church in Gulfport visitation starts at 2:30 p.m.

An account has been set up under Zach's name at Hancock bank for those interested in helping pay for the funeral.

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