Divers recovered the body of a recently graduated South Carroll High School football player early yesterday in Liberty Reservoir after a group of friends who had gone for an illegal swim just before midnight returned to shore and realized he was missing.
Paul Sumpter Marcum, 18, of Mount Airy, was swimming with a group of friends a quarter-mile west of the Morgan Run Bridge over Liberty Reservoir, state police in Westminster said. The teen-agers had been drinking alcohol, but police will await autopsy results to determine whether that was a factor in the youth's death, Sgt. John W. Shelley said.
Family, friends and school officials described Mr. Marcum as a
good-looking, popular athlete who made the honor roll in his senior year and served as a counselor for younger children at Camp Hashawa while in school. He loved art, doing sketches in charcoal and pencil, and worked both at the Pizza Hut and the Rite Aid drugstore in Mount Airy.
"He was a wonderful kid, a sweetheart of a boy," said Brenda Eaton, a paraprofessional in the school guidance office. "When he smiled, thewhole place lit up. I really thought the world of him."
Kenneth Jerry Marcum said his son and his girlfriend left the house after working at the Pizza Hut Monday night, saying they were going swimming.
"They said they were going swimming; they didn't say where, but I knew they had been slipping up there. We tried to discourage them," his father recalled. "I said, 'Life is not one big party,' but it was almost like in the last month, he knew he was going to die and wanted to get in all the life he could. Like a premonition."
Keane Jones, a classmate from Mount Airy, said the friends who went swimming with Mr. Marcum told him they didn't realize he had disappeared until they swam to shore and couldn't find him.
"He didn't scream or anything," he said. "They didn't know he wasn't there. They were dunking each other, and they just got cold and swam in."
The swimmers flagged down a trooper on patrol in the area to report Mr. Marcum's disappearance. A state police helicopter was called in to search with divers from the Gamber Volunteer Fire Department, who recovered the body. Mr. Marcum was pronounced dead on arrival at Carroll County General Hospital at 1:13 a.m.
The bridge north of Sykesville attracts swimmers despite being posted "No Swimming," Sergeant Shelley said, but no one had died there previously. "We have a worse problem at Deer Park Road and Nicodemus Road. They go swimming; they're not supposed to, but they do. They can be charged with trespassing if we catch them."
A football player since ninth grade, Mr. Marcum had surgery on his knee in his junior year but returned to play four or five games as tailback in his senior year before reinjuring the knee -- benching him for the rest of the season and ruining his hopes for a college football scholarship, said his father, the contractor-owner of Phase Two Drywall Inc.
Although he was a good swimmer, the operation left two metal screws in his knee, which may have affected him in the water, Kenneth Marcum said.
In his yearbook, Paul Marcum said his future plans were "to succeed in everything I do, and to set higher and bigger goals and to accomplish them." Ms. Eaton, who worked in the guidance office, said he had spoken to her about enrolling at a community college.
His death shocked classmates and school officials, who gathered at South Carroll High to mourn him.
Jack C. "Bud" Gettemy Jr., assistant principal at South Carroll, saidmost people knew Mr. Marcum well because he had worked as an office aide.
"He was bubbly, with a good sense of humor," Mr. Gettemy said. "A big, blond, good-looking kid, very outgoing, always laughing. He had a lot of friends.
"He was the kind of guy you just had to get along with," said his classmate, Mr. Jones. "Everybody liked him."
In addition to his father, he is survived by his mother, Patricia Jane Wagner Marcum; a brother, Air Force Sgt. Daniel Allen Marcum, stationed in Gwinn, Mich.; a sister, Pamela Christine Hammac of Powder Springs, Ga.; and his grandmothers, Opal Elizabeth Jones of Charlestown, W. Va., and Thelma Lucille Wagner of Hebron, Md.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Calvary Methodist Church in Mount Airy.
His father suggested memorial contributions to South Carroll High School's football equipment fund.