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Casper comes together in grief to mourn Bobby

Hundreds of mourners gather in person and online Thursday night for a vigil to honor Bobby Maher, 14, who was slain April 7 at Eastridge Mall in Casper. Photo by Andrew Towne, Casper Star-Tribune

By Zak Sonntag
Casper Star-Tribune
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER — He was known by friends and neighbors as Bobby, a familiar face on the basketball court and recognized by his dashing mop of curly brown hair and boyishly charming smirk. He’s described by his classmates at Dean Morgan Middle School as a kid with relaxed happiness and a quickdraw smile. 

“He was the sweetest, kindest and most courageous boy,” Hayley, his girlfriend, told the Star-Tribune, flourishing a promise ring Bobby had given her. “He was the best boyfriend out there, and we had so many plans for the future.” 

Those plans changed last Sunday — the day Bobby lost his life. 

Four days after Robert Dean Maher, 14, died from knife wounds in an altercation at the Eastridge Mall in Casper, residents have begun to collectively process a loss that’s shaken this central Wyoming community at its core. 

As light faded into dusk and a soft evening breeze brushed over the city, hundreds of Casperites gathered Thursday for a vigil at David Street Station, where they shared emotions, memories and held one another in silent, tearful hugs. Many were dressed in blue — Bobby’s favorite color — matching like uniformed fans at home field, a fitting image for the honor of a kid who was crazy for sports, and a potent symbol of a community united by grief. 

During the vigil, students spoke of an eerie sadness that’s settled over Dean Morgan since Bobby’s passing. 

“A lot of kids just haven’t even been showing up. It’s, like, kind of empty. It feels weird,” one student told the Star-Tribune. “Bobby smiled a lot. He was really friendly. I had woodshop with Bobby, and everyone in class has been dead silent since.” 

The news of Bobby’s demise spread rapidly. His story has reached audiences across the state and nation, and now even some outlets in Europe are reporting the death — signifying the universally felt sadness for minors killed by violence, and how the loss of a single life can impact people across the globe. 

As Bobby’s story touches hearts in far off places, here, in the small and socially interwoven community of Casper, the loss is felt profoundly: Homes across the city have been adorned and lit up in the color blue; local pubs and businesses are donating proceeds and holding raffle to support the Maher family. 

From the stage, DC Martinez, youth pastor and athletic director at the YMCA, where he and Bobby interacted regularly, delivered a message of equal parts lamentation and hope. 

He diagnosed the tragedy as the result of a culturally “bad diet,” and bewailed the “ridiculous Instagram and TikTok videos they mindlessly watch. The SnapChat fight groups where they praise each other for the best fights, which affect a constantly developing mind.” 

Martinez called on leaders to take action in the hope that Bobby’s death inspires social change. 

We must “not let Bobby’s name be a catchy hashtag or just a sticker on a vehicle, but a platform to action,” he said. “May we create more mentorship programs and ways to identify troubled youth and change their heart, so that further tragedies like this don’t happen.” 

Friends say the Maher family has been buoyed by the outpouring of support. But they chose not to address the gathering publicly. 

Instead, the family offered a written statement that was given by Martinez. 

A sole, untethered blue balloon drifted into the sky as he read: 

“The love we have for our beloved Bobby lives in our own hearts just as strong as the day he was born. We think of him with every beat of our hearts. Bobby’s loving spirit remains in our sounds forever, impervious to death.”


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