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Friends and family say Jessica’s laugh always will be remembered.
East County Thursday, Jul. 15, 2004 17 years ago

In Loving Memory: Jessica Marie Stock

by: Michael Eng Executive Editor

Russell Stock stood at the podium at Calvary Baptist Church last Saturday afternoon to speak at his daughter’s funeral. In the sanctuary, hundreds of Jessica Marie Stock’s friends filled seats and lined the back of the room. More than 30 family members — some from as far away as Washington, New York and Indiana — also were present.

Every one of you knew Jessica, Russell said to the crowd. And now, for the rest of our lives, we are united together. So, when you see us out and about, when you see us in the mall, come up and tell us you knew Jessica, and we’ll have a nice chat.

The night before the funeral, Allen Perny, Jessica’s cousin, stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing Jessica’s tribute video, then hopped a 5 a.m. Florida-bound plane.

Although everyone in attendance had a different relationship with Jessica, each knew of her bubbly personality, her smile and most of all, her love.

“I’ve never seen Calvary that full,” Russell Stock said. “It was a bright, sunny Saturday, and all of those kids gave up their beach time to honor the life of my daughter. She touched so many lives.”

Jessica’s body was found at about 11:30 a.m., July 6, on the south side of State Road 64 just east of Interstate 75. She was 25. Her car was found parked at home — less than one mile away.

Just three days earlier, Jessica was leaving her house to spend a few days with a friend. Halfway down the driveway, she turned around and looked at her mother.

I love you, Mom, she said before leaving.

Those were the last words Rose Stock heard from her daughter.

Investigators with both the Florida Highway Patrol and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office are trying to unravel the mystery behind Jessica’s death. With an autopsy completed, the two agencies are working together to piece together a timeline regarding Jessica’s whereabouts the days prior to her death.

But, while the circumstances of her death may remain unexplained, the impact Jessica had on those who knew her is obvious.

“I’ll never forget Jessica’s signature laugh,” one friend wrote in Jessica’s online condolence book.

“Words cannot describe the heart she had,” said Sherry Perny, Jessica’s aunt. “She was kind, generous and never selfish. She was a rare find.”

“It didn’t matter who you were, she was going to love you,” said Allen Perny, Jessica’s cousin.

Jessica was born Sept. 21, 1978, in Jacksonville and moved to the East County after Russell Stock retired from the U.S. Navy. Throughout her school career, Jessica attended Bashaw Elementary School, Braden River Middle School and Southeast High School, where she played softball and also participated in marching band.

Her senior year, she was voted Homecoming Queen — an accomplishment her father will never forget.

“When they announced her, I stood right up and said, ‘And I’m the dad,’” Russell Stock said.

Following high school, Jessica attended Manatee Community College and harbored dreams of breaking into the marketing business. She worked at several retail stores, including a shoe store and two jewelry stores.

As a child, Jessica always was outgoing and a “Momma’s girl,” Russell Stock remembered.

“She would walk up to anyone,” he said. “And she was beautiful. She’d go right up to someone and start having a conversation with them. She was like that all of her life.

“Her mother taught her how to love, and she put it to good use,” Russell Stock said.

Sherry Perny, who coordinated all the necessities for Jessica’s funeral, came to the church last Saturday with a teddy bear in her hand. The teddy bear was one she had given to Jessica on Oct. 22, 2003 — the night Jessica decided to recommit to her Christian faith after several years of personal and spiritual problems.

“That night, I was able to point her in a direction,” Sherry Perny said. “There are times when only the Lord can help. She shared things with me that night; she showed me the real Jessica.

“My first intention was to put the teddy bear in the casket, but I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It’s a representation of her and her life. I’m keeping it, and I’m taking it back to Indiana with me.”

Charles Stock, Jessica’s paternal grandfather, said he remembers her love for ponies and horseback riding when the family lived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the late 1980s. After her grandmother died last December, Jessica dedicated herself to spending time with her grandfather.

“In the last two months, she took me to the beach; that was the first time I had been to the beach in 20 years,” Charles Stock said. “Jess filled my home with a lot of joy.”

Following Jessica’s death, parents and teachers from Bashaw Elementary School, where Rose Stock is an art teacher, stopped by the Stock home daily to offer support. The school also provided the funeral dinner at Woodland Baptist Church.

“We really want to thank the community for the outpouring of love for this family,” Sherry Perny said. “Please continue to pray for this family.”

At first, investigators speculated Jessica’s death was due to a pedestrian accident, but until the FHP and sheriff’s office can piece a timeline together, no cause can be determined.

“We don’t have a lot of information on Jessica’s whereabouts on July 5,” said Sgt. Rick Wells, of the FHP. “We’re really trying to pinpoint where she was the evening of July 5.”

Anyone with any information regarding Jessica Stock and her whereabouts — specifically on July 5 — should call Cpl. Lona Mitchell at 751-7647, Ext. 131.

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