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Double Murder, Suicide Shock Region

October 18, 1998

GRAFTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Instead of celebrating a homecoming dance, about 300 high school students and parents held a candlelight vigil to mourn the stabbing death of a popular classmate.

Several girls who apparently hadn’t gotten word of Jamie Cleavenger’s death arrived Saturday night at the Grafton school in homecoming gowns, only to break down in tears when they heard the news.

At a football game the day before, many of the same people held a moment of silence for a boy in neighboring Fairmont who was killed Thursday in a car accident. That followed an accidental fatal shooting of a Clarksburg boy on Tuesday.

``It just hasn’t been a good couple weeks for this area,″ Grafton police officer J.E. Hinebaugh said Sunday. ``What a mess.″

Fairmont and Clarksburg, with about 20,000 residents each, lie along Interstate 79 just 20 miles apart in northern West Virginia. With Grafton, population 6,000, to the east, people in the three towns form a tight-knit triangle. They’re friendly rivals in the sports arena. They’re friends and neighbors outside of school.

So when 16-year-old Jeff Conley was killed Tuesday while he and two friends were playing with a shotgun, people in neighbors heard the news. And they expressed shock again when an auto accident killed Seth Burton, 17, the captain of the Fairmont Senior High School cross-country team, and injured five teammates Thursday.

Then came Jamie’s death and ``and a lot of people wanted questions answered,″ Hinebaugh said.

Robert Cleavenger, 40, was accused of fatally stabbing his 16-year-old daughter, Jamie, and his estranged wife, Elaine, and seriously wounding his 13 year-old son early Saturday. Cleavenger died Sunday from head injuries suffered after jumping from his wife’s second-floor apartment.

Police said Cleavenger had been a psychiatric patient but could not provide all of the answers.

``At church today the mood was `Why?‴ Police Chief Jeff Leach said. ``We may never be able to answer that question.″

Jamie, a member of Grafton’s tennis team, was unconscious when she was found but died as her boyfriend helped her to his car in the hope of rushing her to the hospital.

``Jamie was an upbeat young lady, a real bubble of smiles,″ said Gregory Cartwright, whose son was a fellow student and friend. ``A lot of students knew her.″

Barbara Spencer, a former neighbor, wept intermittently as she tried to talk about the Cleavengers. ``It’s difficult in a small place where everybody knows everybody and everybody hurts,″ she said. ``No one’s angry . . . No one knows what happened.″

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