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FAMILY, FRIENDS MOURN VICTIM OF HUNTING ACCIDENT

Anderson teen remembered as generous, athletic

Kimberly Bolander

Record Searchlight

January 02, 2004 - 2:07 a.m.

MILLVILLE - Three truckloads of teenagers and parents drove to a pond here this week to lay flowers on the muddy bank where their 16-year-old friend died.

West Valley High School junior Jake W. Kelley accidentally shot himself in the chest while duck hunting Sunday.

Today and Saturday, he will be remembered with a viewing in Anderson, a burial service in Cottonwood and a memorial at West Valley High in Cottonwood.

"He was just an all-around great kid," said his mother, Ronda.

She remembers her son telling her how good he felt this Christmas after buying a meal for a homeless man.

At a junior-level pheasant hunt in 2002, he handed the bird he'd shot to a younger boy who hadn't managed to take one.

Sunday's tragedy happened while Kelley hunted with two of his best friends.

They had driven out dirt roads to West Camel Boulevard in Millville, south of Dersch Road.

The other boys were hunting in different areas around the pond and did not see Jake's shotgun go off, Shasta County Deputy Coroner Wayne Booker said.

He apparently had his gun in one hand and may have been reaching to set decoys in the water with the other.

One friend was close enough to hear the shot and ran toward the 16-year-old.

Kelley managed to get out of the pond and onto a bank before he died, probably within seconds of the blast, Booker said. The shot struck him in the lower left chest.

Kelley had owned his 12-gauge pump shotgun for a year and was familiar with it. Its safety had been off and the gun was fully functional when Booker examined it, he said.

He may have forgotten to put the safety back on after aiming at a bird, Booker said.

"I absolutely believe that this was an accident. How the gun discharged, did he catch it on a twig, no one knows," Booker said.

Since Sunday, more than 20 of Kelley's teenage friends and many of their parents have gathered in his family's Anderson living room.

Along with tears, they shared humorous stories about their friend. Several stayed until early Wednesday watching one of his favorite movies, "Dumb and Dumberer," his father said.

Kelley had lettered in golf, played baseball since he was a Little Leaguer, and had a passion for hunting, said his brother, Robert Lonjin, 22, of Redding.

"Our whole family is into hunting, so he just really grew up with it. That's been his life," Lonjin said.

This year, Jake shot his first buck. He started target shooting when he got a pellet gun at 10.

Matt Nichols, 16, of Cottonwood had known Kelley since the first grade. His friend's death, while he did something he loved and knew well, is hard to comprehend, he said.

"I guess it's something that's kind of unreal," he said. "I never thought about that actually happening."

As a freshman on the school football team, Kelley earned a pin when his team won all its games, his mother said. Friends said he also liked welding and metal crafts and had wanted to go to college.

Ken Kelley remembered his son as outgoing and a good team player, but not usually the leader of the pack.

"He was always the one to be standing there with his hands in his pockets," Ken Kelley said.

"He was actually known more for his smile."

Reporter Kimberly Bolander can be reached at 225-8339 or at kbolander@redding.com .

Friday, January 2, 2004

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