A kind soul mourned: Family members hold memorial for Amherst woman found dead

Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2014

AMHERST — A body reported to be that of an Amherst woman missing since Friday, was discovered Tuesday morning on University of Massachusetts property in a wooded area near the intersection of Amity Street and University Drive.

Northwestern district attorney’s office spokeswoman Mary Carey said the body is believed to be that of Marissa Jackson, 26, who was last seen walking on Belchertown Road in the area of her Rolling Green Apartments home Friday at 10:30 p.m. Police issued an appeal Monday afternoon for anyone to provide information about her whereabouts.

The death remains under investigation by Amherst police, UMass police and state police assigned to the district attorney’s office.

The cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Carey said. She declined to say whether foul play was involved.

On Tuesday night, more than 50 people gathered around a cloth framed by candles and bedecked with flowers and memorabilia from Jackson’s life. The vigil was held near the curb at 33 Rolling Green Apartments, where Jackson lived with her wife, Britney Archambault-Jackson, and her cousin Aaron Caldwell. Music by the band Phish played from the balcony above.

Caldwell said he was the last person Jackson contacted on Friday by text message. “She told me she loved me so much and to stay strong and that she was so sorry,” Caldwell said. It was the night before his 24th birthday.

Archambault-Jackson said she and her wife, who were married at the World War II Club in Northampton in January 2013, were both graduates of Belchertown High School and they had been together since middle school. “I graduated in ’07 and she graduated in ’06,” Archambault-Jackson said.

Caldwell said his cousin was taking art classes at Holyoke Community College and had been employed as a mental health worker on the forensic unit of the Brattleboro Retreat for about a year.

“She was a friend, she was a cousin, she was like a sister to me. She was an amazing person,” Caldwell said. “The thing I liked the most about her was her mind. She was a very intelligent young woman. We had many books in the house and her dream was to have a library one day full of books. When our nana passed away recently, she received the Harvard Classics that our papa had collected.”

Archambault-Jackson, who was crying, described her wife as “a beautiful person, a beautiful soul.” She said the two of them were talking about having children.

“She had the kindest soul,” Caldwell said. “She would always give back anything to anyone, she would never judge anyone based on how they looked and she never got mad at anyone for any reason.”

Among the items laid out on and around a cloth in the grass was a figure of Yoda that Archambault-Jackson said the couple received for their wedding. There was also a Grateful Dead teddy bear and a small Buddha and grapefruits, which Caldwell explained were a symbol of Buddhism, and also apples as blessings. Beside that was a conch shell as a symbol of the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of Hindu scripture. There was also a collection of small rocks and crystals, including a Herkimer diamond as well as moldavite, which Caldwell said comes from outer space through the impact of meteorites.

Beside that was a print of Vincent van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” which was one of Jackson’s favorites, as well as a charcoal drawing she did featuring the pattern of a tattoo Calwell carries and the names Aaron, Britney, Marissa and Murphy, who is Caldwell’s son.

Among those in attendance was Michael Bridger, 20, who is Archambault-Jackson’s stepbrother. He said Jackson was “the nicest person you could imagine. She was always joking and every time I saw her she had a smile on her face and she helped you with anything you needed.”

Debra LaBarre, who regards Archambault-Jackson as a daughter, said Jackson was very kind to one of her sons, who is autistic. “When she came to the house she would always talk to him about what his problems were and would say, ‘you can do whatever you want with your life, you can be whatever you want to be’.”

Archambault-Jackson said the family had not made funeral arrangements yet.


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