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Dead teen described as hard-worker; just got job at Ghirardelli
James Pearson - photo by Photo Contributed
The young man found dead in a Manteca home on Monday was identified by family and friends as James Pearson, 18, a 2008 graduate of Sierra High School.

He was described as “very trustworthy and responsible, a good all-around person” who played football during his sophomore year at Sierra and, at one time, played baseball with the Lathrop Little League.

At the time of his death, he was employed at the Ghirardelli chocolate warehouse in Lathrop where he had been working for a month.

“Before that, he was working at Burger King in Manteca. He didn’t give up that job until he found a better job. He got his head on his shoulders,” said close family friend Erica Roa who described Pearson as an “adopted” member of her family and vice versa.

“Oh, my God! Are you serious?” was the shocked reaction from one of the supervisors at the Main Street Burger King named Cindy when she heard about what happened to her former employee.

“He was a hard worker,” she managed to say about Pearson before referring any more questions to the company’s corporate office for additional comments.

According to information provided by family and friends, Pearson has been staying at the house where he was found for only a few days and was preparing to move to his own place.

“He only stayed there for a week. He was in the process of getting his own place. He was going to move out on the 15th. He already had money saved up,” Roa said.

“He had never been in trouble. No, no, no,” she added.

And that’s why “it just shocked people” to read about his death in a home where police found 20 pounds of marijuana in bags in the garage.

A sister of the young teen, who called the Bulletin but did not state her name, said the news stories of her brother’s death being linked with the discovery of marijuana in the garage “didn’t sit right with the family.”

“He was just funny and outgoing. Once you meet him, he’ll make you laugh. And he’d do anything to anybody who needed something. I have three young kids who looked up to him like he was their uncle,” said Roa who, like Pearson’s family and friends, were still in shock and disbelief at what happened to their loved one.

Despite the heroic efforts of Patrolman Mike Espinosa and another man who alternately performed CPR on the 18-year-old when he was found not breathing, the young man could not be revived.

The exact cause of death is still not known pending the results of a coroner’s investigation of the “unattended death.”

Following the unsuccessful rescue of the teen-ager, police searching the garage of the home found the 20 pounds of marijuana in bags and boxes of marijuana along with one marijuana plant. According to reports, resident Clifford Wayt, 27, admitted to authorities that he had marijuana in his garage. He was arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale. It is not known if Wayt is the owner of the house.