Argonia At Argonia High School's homecoming Friday night, Jared Allen will be standing in for his younger brother Jake, whose death in a bizarre incident this summer remains a mystery.
As last year's homecoming king, it would have been Jake Allen's role to take part in the ceremony honoring the new king and queen during halftime of the eight-man football game.
But Jake Allen's body was found early on the morning of July 5, having been run over by a train. Just how that happened remains officially unknown. But various law enforcement and railroad sources connected with the investigation have said the 19-year-old, who graduated as Argonia High School's valedictorian in May, had apparently been tied with baling wire to the tracks.
Last week, the Sumner County Sheriff's Office said it still was "actively pursuing" its investigation into the death, saying it had conducted 104 interviews, executed two search warrants and followed up on 49 tips.
The sheriff's office, assisted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, refers publicly to its work on Allen's death as a "death investigation," not a homicide. Toxicology results showed Jake had not been drugged and was not intoxicated, authorities said.
A year ago, Jake Allen was a lineman on the Argonia football team. His No. 25 jersey has been given to his family, and that number won't be used for the next few years, School Supt. Julie Dolley said.
This season, Allen's younger brother Bryce is one of the team's stars. Only a sophomore, the 5-foot-8, 135-pound starting tailback has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the team's first three games.
School officials knew students would return to classes with memories of Jake and lingering questions about his death.
"You can't walk around and pretend like it didn't happen," Dolley said. "We let them know it was OK to talk about it. It was not going to be a taboo subject. But we're not going to dwell on it."
Jake's parents, Joe and Brenda Allen, have declined to comment, beyond a letter published in local newspapers.
"We have found parents can never have too much concern about the well-being of their kids, and we hope that kids must know that they can trust their parents if they are in trouble," the letter said. "Please keep us in your prayers, for the hardest part begins now."