Friends remember slain DuPage teen at vigil

  • Classmates hold a vigil Tuesday night for Willowbrook High School freshman Darnell Holt, 16, and three of his relatives.

      Classmates hold a vigil Tuesday night for Willowbrook High School freshman Darnell Holt, 16, and three of his relatives. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Willowbrook High School freshman Darnell Holt, 16, was one of four people shot to death Tuesday in an unincorporated DuPage County home. That home was later set on fire, authorities said. Above is a photo copy of Darnell at an eighth-grade dance.

      Willowbrook High School freshman Darnell Holt, 16, was one of four people shot to death Tuesday in an unincorporated DuPage County home. That home was later set on fire, authorities said. Above is a photo copy of Darnell at an eighth-grade dance. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/18/2012 4:56 AM

Arthur Barajas said he's been good friends with Darnell Holt since Holt came to Villa Park's Albright Middle School in seventh grade. In fact, he calls him a brother.

Now a freshman at Willowbrook High School, Barajas says he just talked to Holt on Monday -- only hours before Holt and three family members died in an apparent murder-arson at their home near Villa Park.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I loved him. It was a shock when I found out what happened," Barajas said. "But he's in heaven now."

Holt, his younger brother Daniel Nailor, mother Ursula Nailor and cousin Dominique Robinson were all found shot to death. Police say Ursula Nailor's boyfriend, Cedric Anderson, killed them before setting fire to the house on Tuesday morning. He later committed suicide at his father's home in Dolton, authorities said.

Word of the tragedy spread quickly Tuesday through the hallways of Willowbrook High, where Holt was a popular four-sport athlete. News also got out via Facebook, and as a result, about 100 Willowbrook students attended a candlelight vigil outside the family's house on Summit Avenue Tuesday night. They gathered together, holding hands in a large circle.

"Do me a favor, really take note of the hands you're holding -- we are one big family out here," said the Rev. Al Cleveland of Rehoboth Ministries in Lombard, who led a prayer during the vigil. "More than anything, this is a time to bond together. We need each other and we'll make it through this."

While grieving family members had gathered outside the house Tuesday afternoon, they had left by the time of the evening vigil. Still, several students brought condolence cards to give to the family. Tasha Shields, a parent-volunteer at Willowbrook who helped organize the vigil, collected the cards and said she would give them to the school principal on Wednesday.

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Students, some wiping away tears, comforted each other with hugs, before many drove to the nearby high school, where they left their candles at a memorial for their classmate Darnell and his family.

"This is something we don't have out here," Shields said. "Our kids at Willowbrook are very, very important to us."

Grief counselors would be made available to students at school on Wednesday.

Briana Mazur, a freshman at Willowbrook and classmate of Darnell Holt since seventh grade, said Holt had previously indicated that he had some family problems. But he never talked much about them, and instead focused his attention on sports, she said.

And in the hallways of Willowbrook, classmates who encountered Holt always saw him in good spirits. "He always kept a smile on his face," Mazur said. "Others needed that and he needed that."

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