Teens from Highland Township were best friends; then they were shot to death

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

White Lake Township, Mich. — Ever since they met at Milford High School, Cameron Duckworth and Drake Mancuso were an inseparable pair: best friends known for their kind spirits.

"Their personality just matched," said Adreana Cox, Duckworth's cousin. "They loved each other. They had a very strong friendship."

A makeshift memorial for the victims, Cameron Duckworth and Drake Mancuso, during a vigil Monday.

The Highland Township teens were together again when, police said, they were shot to death at a White Lake Township mobile home community.

Two suspects have been arrested, police announced Monday. 

Those who knew the victims are preparing for memorials while struggling to grasp what led to the tragedy.

Cameron Duckworth

"They were just great people," said Jena Jagodzinski, who met both teens at Milford High and lived near Duckworth. "I just know they did not deserve it."

Officers were called to the Cedarbrook Estates mobile home community near Highland and Bogie Lake roads at about 9 a.m. Saturday for a report of an unresponsive person near a pond, they said.

Police found the bodies of two males with gunshot wounds lying near the pond.

Investigators identified the two as Highland Township residents, ages 16 and 19. They have not released the names. The teens' names were gleaned from social media posts and interviews with relatives.

Officials said they have two suspects in custody at the Oakland County Jail. They are not releasing further information at this time.

Drake Mancuso in 2021.

According to a GoFundMe campaign launched to help the family of 19-year-old Duckworth, he was a "kid with a bright future" whose life was cut short with his friend.

Cox said she and other relatives believe Duckworth "might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. If he went there, he went to protect his friend. I don’t think he ever thought lives would be taken."

Helping others was natural for Duckworth, one of three boys known as a gentle giant who overcame learning disabilities.

Duckworth, who spent much of his adolescence in St. Clair Shores, most recently worked in the restaurant industry and construction, Cox said.

The teen was eager to help in any way possible, from pitching in on a home project, tending to a neighbor's needs or running errands for his grandmother, Cox said.

"Cameron was fundamentally a good person," she said. "He had such a gentle spirit. You felt at peace around him."

Jagodzinski, who lived near Duckworth and saw him almost daily, marveled at how he and Mancuso were so well-matched.

"They were both kind, funny. They always messed with each other," the 19-year-old said. "They were always joking around, play-fighting."

In an obituary posted on the Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors website, relatives described Mancuso as "a loving, kind and thoughtful young man who always had a smile on his face. He loved his family and his friends dearly, but his favorite thing to do was to spend quality time with his devoted father, Marcus."

The youth, who would have turned 17 next month, also "enjoyed snowboarding, playing sports and just hanging out with the people he loved," according to the notice. "He will be greatly missed by all who knew him." 

Mancuso's memorial service is scheduled for noon Friday at Cornerstone Church of Highland, his obituary said.

It follows a vigil friends and family held Monday night at Cedarbrook Estates for him and Duckworth.

"We wanted to give that place more of a happier memory," Cox said after the event. "So many people are suffering from this."

Jagodzinski joined the crowd for the vigil.

"Everybody needs to realize that life is so short," she said. "You can’t take anything for granted."

Some friends took to social media to express their grief.

"You guys were so much more than just our friends. You were our brothers, always will be," Zane Jones wrote Monday. "I love and miss you both so much. Please watch over us."

Staff Writer Charles E. Ramirez contributed