The vigil came three days after Roanoke Rapids police received word from the Chief State Medical Examiner’s Office the remains were positively identified as his.
“We’re still waiting to talk with the medical examiner to see what she’s going to determine (on cause of death),” Captain Bobby Martin said before the vigil. “We’ve not discovered anything that’s indicated foul play.”
When family and friends gathered at the site on March 26, before the positive ID was made, the location behind a vacant building off Highway 158 where his remains were found was barren. Sunday it was marked with a floral arrangement in the shape of a cross, balloons, more flowers and a small cemetery angel.
Kim Wallace, an advocate for families of the missing, said a GoFundMe page has been started to help defray the costs of funeral services for Youngblood and Coleman Funeral Home in Garysburg is handling the arrangements.
She said donations may also be sent to Coleman Funeral Home, PO Box 297, Garysburg, NC 27831. The phone number is 252-536-3896.
“We’re trying to come up with the money for cremation,” said family friend LeeAnn Bryant, who led an exhaustive search to find Youngblood since the time he was reported missing last summer.
There will be a local service and then his remains will eventually go back to his home state of Alabama, Bryant said.
The news of the positive identification remains sobering, she said. “Everyday gets better. I have my moments.”
The search for Youngblood, who came to stay with Bryant and her husband before moving out on his own, has made her want to join Wallace in being an advocate for the missing. The ordeal, she said, taught her “to never give up. Never take no for an answer.”
Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp said he will do fundraisers to help the family raise money and Roanoke Rapids police Chief Chuck Hasty said the police club will donate money. “The police club is dedicated to helping families in need and helping in the community,” Hasty said.
For family members, the eight months since Youngblood’s disappearance has been trying.
“There’s been a rollercoaster of emotions,” his cousin, Steven Cobble, said.
In learning the positive identification was made, Cobble said, “There’s some kind of closure. He was outgoing, he was a people person. He got along with everybody.”
Youngblood’s mother, Carol Jones, who drove from Alabama, said the ordeal has been, “Like hell. It’s been agonizing. We wondered if he was cold or scared or where he was at. I never believed it was him.”
Despite her son’s battles with addiction, she said, “He had a good heart. He was a good person. He liked to make people laugh.”
Bryant saw Youngblood as one of her own. “I loved Joe as if he was my own kid. He was part of my heart. He was special.”