On March 4, the day following the death of Jesse Simpson, the Shelter Cover community was quiet.
Friends and family of Simpson described the tight-knit community as a ghost town in the wake of his death.
“It’s definitely rocked the whole community,” said Cassidy Etter, a Shelter Cove Volunteer Fie Department EMT and friend of Simpson.
Simpson, who was 42 and living in Shelter Cove at the time of his death, was described as a generous, friendly and outgoing guy who went out of his way to help others.
On March 3, Simpson was weed-wacking his neighbors lawn, listening to music when a vehicle allegedly ran him over several times, his aunt Mary Jo Athey said.
The suspect in the case Eric Lively, 45, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Thursday afternoon in the Humboldt County courthouse in Eureka.
Lively sat straight-faced and in silence wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, handcuffs and reading glasses during the proceeding.
“We’re prepared to plead not guilty to the single count therein,” Arcata-based private attorney Russ Clanton said to Judge John T. Feeney.
Clanton didn’t waive his client’s right to a speedy trial.
Audible gasps were heard from a group of Simpson’s family and friends as the plea was made.
“We’re all here because my brother was a great person,” Thomas Simpson said after the arraignment.
“It was really hard seeing him,” friend James Robinson said about Lively.
About 10 friends and family members were there to watch the proceedings.
“Jesse was a good man and did not deserve to die like this,” friend Larry Corpus said.
Thomas Simpson said he invited his brother to move to Shelter Cove from North Carolina about eight years ago. In that short time, he fully integrated himself into the community.
“Everyone knows Jesse, you can ask anyone in the Cove,” Thomas Simpson said.
He said his brother got a job working with him.
“He’s a carpenter-landscaper. He loved landscaping,” he said.
Friends and family said they’ll remember Jesse Simpson for his love of and affinity for children and his outlandish party outfits.
“He was basically a big kid that related to children way better than adults,” Etter said.
“He was a great pirate,” Robertson said in reference to one of Jesse Simpson’s many outfits.
The friends and family at the court room said they’re not doing well since his death.
“If we were apart, we’d be a wreck,” Thomas Simpson said.
According to a family friend, Jesse Simpson has a teenage son who lives in Southern California.
A memorial service will be held at the Shelter Cove Community Center on May 21 at 3 p.m.
“Anybody who wants to attend can attend,” Thomas Simpson said.
Lively has an intervention scheduled May 22 at 9:45 a.m. and a preliminary hearing May 23 at 9:45 p.m. at the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.
“As you’ll see at the next court date, there will be more people,” Thomas Simpson said.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.