Slain 6-year-old loved to play, give hugs

Saturday, August 30, 2014 | 9:34 p.m. CDT; updated 2:12 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 31, 2014

FULTON – Dayne William Hathman might have squeezed a full lifetime's worth of hugs into his six years.

Before he was shot and killed Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, Dayne loved hugging family, friends and everybody else around him.

Scottie A. Willet, 27, was arrested in connection with the death Thursday. In an interview later that day, Willet admitted to shooting the child multiple times with a handgun, Callaway County Sheriff Dennis Crane said.

Dayne was born Aug. 14, 2008. He was diagnosed with Down syndrome, although people who knew him have said that he didn't let the disability hold him back. Family and friends have been reminiscing about the hugs Dayne gave.

"Everybody got hugs," Dayne's next door neighbor Misha Gallatin said. "You didn't have to know him to get hugs."

Dayne didn't limit his affection to people. When he would stay with Gallatin, he'd share his love with the two stuffed deer heads inside her house.

"He loved his deer heads," Gallatin said. "He'd hug them tight and we'd have to say bye to them every time he left. He was pretty awesome."

When he stayed with his grandmother Mary Hathman, he found other targets for his affection. Like a particular tree.

"From the time he could walk, every time we'd get home, he'd walk up to the big tree and say hello and hug it," she said. "And he'd just pet this tree ... If he would have been able to have grown up, I bet he would have gone into some field involving trees."

Dayne was also attracted to people's glasses. Mary Hathman recalled how, countless times, Dayne snatched the glasses right off people's faces. The only warning was a certain facial expression.

"He'd reach up and grab them right off your face," she said. "I'd have to warn people before he sat on their lap. If he got that little smirk on his face, you'd know he was going for the glasses."

"He was a sweetheart. He loved everybody and everything."

Just as he would hug anything he could wrap his arms around, Dayne played with just about everything he could get his hands on. He loved the slide at the park, sword fighting with Grandma Hathman and playing with balls.

"I'd take him to the store and all he ever wanted was a ball," Hathman said.

Dayne's playful personality followed him through his first few years of school as he attended Fulton Education Center for preschool and McIntire Elementary School for kindergarten. He left a positive impression on teachers, bus drivers and classmates.

"What the folks have told me is that he interacted very well with classmates," Fulton 58 School District Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said. "He enjoyed being around people and he worked well with kids and teachers. Even the bus drivers tell me he was always happy. You know, one of those kids that was always trying to please people and always had a smile on his face."

Dayne is survived by his parents, William "Billy" Hathman of Ashland and Ladaynea Simpson of Fulton; his mother's fiancé, Joe Spencer; grandparents John and Laura Armstrong of Fulton, and Mary and Rick Hathman of Ashland, Mo.; great-grandparents Dennis and Donna Devlin of Montgomery City, Mo., Shirley Devlin of Jonesburg, Mo., and Carolyn Armstrong of Belleville, Ill.; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Visitation will start at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Maupin Funeral Home, 301 Douglas Blvd., Fulton. Services will follow at 8 p.m. at the funeral home.

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Supervising editors are Katherine Reed and Adam Aton.

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