ANNISTON, Ala. (WIAT) — The Anniston community is grieving after a local first-grader was killed last weekend. His father has been charged with capital murder.

6-year-old Jessie McCormack attended Alexandria Elementary School. Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jose Reyes Jr. described the little boy as “full of energy” and beloved by his friends and teacher.

“Just a big smile, and he just was happy to be at school,” Reyes said.

According to Anniston police, officers were sent to Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center on Jan. 18. They found Jessie unconscious, being treated for injuries resembling child abuse. His father, 29-year-old Joshua Clark, was arrested for aggravated child abuse.

When Jessie later died, Clark’s charges were upgraded to capital murder.

But police records show this was not the first abuse-related death in the family. In 2019, Jessie’s younger brother Enzo, who was only 18 months old, was also killed. Samantha McCormack, their mother, and her boyfriend Robert Elmore Jr. were charged with capital murder in Blount County.

“Just an extra measure of shock to everyone,” Reyes said.

Alexandria Elementary School brought out a team of counselors and emotional support dogs after the announcement.

Reyes emphasized how difficult this time has been for both Jessie’s classmates and teachers.

“When you have a tragedy like this, you have adults that will go through a grieving process almost like they lost their own child,” Reyes said.

The district is now raising money to build a bronze grave memorial or special headstone for the brothers. Its mission is to give them the love and dignity in death that they never got in life.

“Jessie was a human being with an eternal soul and spirit, and we just felt like that it was necessary for us to provide him with the respect and dignity and honor he deserves,” Reyes said.

Corporal Patrick Lackey with the Anniston Police Department’s investigative division is working the case. Even for investigators, he said it struck a nerve.

“You appreciate your kids more,” Lackey said. “You hold your kids a little closer at night. I know I did.”

He added officers need the public’s help to spot abuse before it’s too late.

“If you see anything out of the ordinary, just trust your gut,” Lackey said. “Make a phone call, ask a question, check on a child. If it doesn’t end up being anything, at least you did your part.”

If you’re interested in donating, contact the Anniston Memorial Funeral Home. There will be a celebration of life service for Jessie this Friday at 2 p.m.