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Updated: Shooting Leaves Teen Brain Dead

(Springfield, MO) -- A Springfield Hillcrest High School student is brain dead after he was shot during a birthday party.
(Springfield, MO) -- A Springfield teenager is brain dead after being shot during a birthday party over the weekend.

17-year-old Kody Ray was shot in the 700 block of West Chicago around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday night.  When Kody answered the door, the suspect shot him.  Everyone else in the home was okay.

Sources say the suspect ran from the scene and is still on the loose.  Police believe it was only coincidence the shooting happened during a young child's birthday.
   
Police continue the investigation, and would only say the shooting was not a random act.

Several friends and family members gathered at St. John's hospital throughout Monday, spending time with Kody and waiting for word on his condition.

The brain dead teen was expected to be taken off life support some time Monday evening.  But, those who loved him most are working to keep his memory alive.

"We just call him New York," says Nicole Wallace, a friend of Ray's.

Forming a bond after Kody Ray's move from New York to Springfield, the teens say they're in shock.

"I ran into the room and told my mom.  I didn't believe it," says Celeste Hixenbaugh, a friend of Ray's.

To deal with grief, they're sharing pictures and memories.

"He was fun, real nice and sweet, especially to his girls," say Wallace and Hixenbaugh.

They're hoping to block out images of a crime they say doesn't reflect the kind of person Kody Ray was.

"Today (Monday), we got to see him.  It was bad," the teens say of their visit to Ray's hospital room.

Friends say Kody had come to the Ozarks to avoid some of the negative influences of the big city. Even so, it caught up with him here. Adults involved say no teen should have to endure this kind of tragedy.

"They're way too young for all of this," says Brandy Pargo, whose daughter was Ray's friend.

Pargo says this crime is an example of how important open lines of communication between parent and child can be.

"You need to be as open with your children as possible. That's the only way to know what was going on," says Pargo.

Pargo says she'd learned of a recent fight at Hillcrest High School that ended with several kids suspended.  Her daughter's friend Kody was one of them.

"People blew it off thinking it was going to be no big deal, maybe just a fight. No one thought this," says Pargo.

She's hoping grief gives way to a lesson so no one else has to feel this kind of loss.

"Parents need to be involved," says Pargo.

Friends say they're planning a memorial celebration for Kody this coming weekend.

Also, despite the fact that school's out for spring break, Hillcrest is making counselors available for students.  From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., classmates of Kody Ray can stop by the school office.


(Photos Courtesy: Kody Ray's MySpace page)
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