Cayman Naib was described as a "thoughtful, bright, fun-loving" student at a candlelight vigil only hours after searchers found him dead, nearly completely covered in snow, in a shallow creek on a remote edge of his parents' Delaware County property.
The 13-year-old eighth grader's dimpled grin and shock of dark hair had become familiar in recent days to the hundreds of searchers who braved bitter cold hoping to find him alive after he left home Wednesday night hours before the season's worst snowstorm. Thousands more followed the anguishing search in news reports and on social media.
"We all wanted a different outcome," said Mark G. Hopkins, chief of Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue, which Newtown Square Township police had brought in.
Tearful parents and classmates from the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, which Naib attended with his 15-year-old sister, Savannah, gathered at a candlelight vigil at dusk to remember their friend.
"This is every parent's nightmare," said Steve Piltch, head of school at Shipley.
Naib, he said, "Was everyone else's best fan," exulting in his classmates' successes.
"He just made a wonderful difference in so many people's lives, particularly his friends," Piltch said.
As many as 300 students and parents hugged and wiped away tears as night fell at the school. Tables covered with lighted votives and larger pillar candles cast a soft glow on the mourners.
Piltch said counselors would be on hand Monday and for days to come for the grieving Shipley students.
Naib's parents, Farid Naib and Becky Malcolm-Naib, were devastated by their son's death, Piltch said.
The parents, on their Facebook page "Find Cayman," had said their son left home 30 minutes after getting an e-mail from Shipley on Wednesday about overdue homework.
"He is a good kid and has no substance abuse or other issues," they posted. "This is the first time he has ever done anything like this."
Piltch said he could not speak to the issue of academic pressure on the student.
"There's pressure in kids' lives," he said. "It's never just one thing."
He emphasized how well-regarded the youth was at the exclusive private school.
"People loved him here," he said.
Hopkins, leader of the K-9 search-and-rescue team that made the grim discovery, said Naib was lying near a high fieldstone wall from which he may have fallen.
Authorities would not comment on reports that a gun may have been found near the body when it was discovered just before 2 p.m.
Hopkins said Naib was found in rugged terrain a few hundred yards from his Newtown Square home, in a shallow part of Darby Creek. Only part of his boots and his backside were visible in the deep snow and ankle-deep water.
"There was no obvious sign of trauma" before the body was removed from the snow, Hopkins said.
He would not answer a question about the possibility a weapon had been found near the body.
"I am not going to comment on that," he said. "I do not know what they have released."
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan also would not discuss whether a gun had been found.
"Once the autopsy is done on Monday we will have more to comment on that issue," he said.
Hopkins said Darby Creek meanders through the densely overgrown property off St. Davids and Paper Mill Roads. He said rescue teams had a difficult time negotiating the area, which he said was "treacherous, with a huge probability of slippage."
The wall, about eight feet high, appeared to be from an old building, Hopkins said. "There's a high probability he could have slipped," he said.
The cause of death was undetermined. The body was turned over to the Delaware County Medical Examiner's office for the autopsy.
When Naib left home about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, he was wearing a down jacket, ski pants, and hiking boots. He left behind his cellphone, wallet, and eyeglasses.
In a sad note directed at their son, his parents posted, "Cayman, if you read this, everything is forgiven, you can exercise your 'free pass.' We love you and really want you to come home, you are not in trouble."
When last seen about 6:45 p.m. that night, he was walking west along Church Road on "a very cold, rainy, and foggy night," the family said.
The season's heaviest snowfall, which ultimately dropped about 10 inches in Newtown Square, began hours after he disappeared.
A massive search effort had developed by Friday, with hundreds of volunteers, the Civil Air Patrol, Newtown Square Township police, and dog teams dispatched in an ever-widening area from the family's 13-acre property. The Civil Air Patrol and even drones scoured the countryside, and the FBI entered the case, examining Naib's cellphone and computer for clues.
The family posted news of the grim discovery on a Facebook page set up after the teen went missing. By Sunday night, more than 21,000 people had "liked" the page, its name changed Sunday night to "Celebrating Cayman."
"It is with a heavy heart that we share news that the family has just learned through the search-and-rescue team and local law enforcement that Cayman has been found deceased," the family said.
"Please understand that the family is still processing and struggling with this most recent news but that they would like to thank all of the thousands of people over the last five days - friends, family, community, law enforcement, local, county, and federal, search and rescue, fire departments, the school communities, especially Shipley and Episcopal Academy, and even perfect strangers - who have come together to support the family to find Cayman.
"We can't begin to tell you how this support and concern and prayers have buoyed the Naibs during this incredibly difficult time," the posting said. "We would ask at this point that the family be given the privacy and quiet that they need to grieve, heal, and to support their daughter."