Slaying of lacrosse star on N.C. campus jars Riva

January 28, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman and Michael James | Ellen Gamerman and Michael James,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer John Rivera and contributing writer Steven Kivinski contributed to this article.

Kevin Reichardt's parents called him at college Thursday to say good-bye before they left on a vacation. They told him they loved him and hung up. A few hours later, Mr. Reichardt lay dead in Chapel Hill, N.C., gunned down by a fellow student.

Now, Karl and Carol Reichardt hold fast to that conversation as they prepare to bury their 20-year-old son, a lacrosse star at the University of North Carolina.

"At least we were able to tell him we loved him," Mr. Reichardt said yesterday, as he stood near his son's room in the family's home in Riva, a town outside Annapolis. "We were saying how glad we were for that."

The younger Mr. Reichardt was riding his bicycle through the college town Thursday afternoon when he was shot twice, the second time as he tried to crawl away. He died on the steps of a sorority house, police in North Carolina said.

Wendell Williamson, 26, a third-year law student at the university, allegedly began shooting randomly as he walked down a downtown street about 2 p.m. yesterday, killing Mr. Reichardt and another man, Ralph Walker, 42, a McDonald's management trainee, according to media reports. Mr. Williamson, who was shot in the legs by police, was pausing to reload his semiautomatic weapon when he was tackled by onlookers and arrested, reports said.

The shooting has jarred the Riva community where Kevin Reichardt led what was described yesterday as a storybook all-American life.

The honors student, student body president and local lacrosse star was well-known around town. He had left for Chapel Hill two years ago after winning a scholarship for his lacrosse play. Already, he was stringing up the same kinds of successes in college he had enjoyed in high school.

"He was a happy person," Mrs. Reichardt said of her son, who called home every Sunday. "He enjoyed life."

The president at St. Mary's High School began weeping as he delivered the news over the public address system at 8 a.m. yesterday. Crisis counselors and teachers met with stunned students and graduates who converged at the school.

In the close-knit community where Kevin lived, neighbors walked to the Reichardts' front door looking pale and stricken. Robert Beery, 16, who lived across the street from Kevin, remembered getting lacrosse lessons from his neighbor and getting a prized possession -- Kevin's old lacrosse stick.

Inside the Reichardts' home, the family sat around a table, praying with a Roman Catholic priest in the darkened kitchen. Eight suitcases still sat near the front door, untouched after the Reichardts made a rushed return from Naples, Fla., where they were supposed to catch a cruise.

"Now we're just trying to do what he would want us to do," Mr. Reichardt said. "He would just want us to stay positive and work through this a day at a time. He was always trying to help people get up."

Last night in Chapel Hill, 600 people held a candlelight vigil, walking from Main Street to the sorority house on Henderson Street.

Outside the sorority house, 15 students in black university lacrosse jackets crouched by a makeshift shrine, placed their arms around each other and sobbed. A note from Brooks Brown, Kevin's best friend, lay nearby. "You were my best friend," reads the letter, torn from a spiral notebook. "My life was blessed and changed with you."

Before the shooting, the Reichardts had been a close family in the middle of happy times. The family was together for Christmas and threw a party for Kevin a week before his 20th birthday earlier this month.

Last week, Kevin saw his older brother Kurt unexpectedly, when Kurt showed up at Kevin's off-campus apartment with the surprise news that he was engaged. He asked Kevin to be the best man.

"He was real excited about going to that wedding," said Rocco D'Andraia, the university lacrosse team's goalie who was one of Kevin's friends. "He was really looking forward to the season and to a lot of things."

The university's lacrosse team was a close group -- with one-third of the 39 players comingfrom Maryland. Kevin, a midfielder, lived off campus with one of those players.

At a news conference in Chapel Hill yesterday, North Carolina athletic director John Swofford said the entire lacrosse team would be coming to the funeral in Annapolis next week.

"Kevin Reichardt was the kind of human being that every parent would want their son to be," head coach Dave Klarmann said. "This waste of such a tremendous person is impossible to describe.

In school, Kevin kept up a 3.7 grade point average and recently decided to get an undergraduate degree in business.

"He was able to balance so many things," Mrs. Reichardt said. "He loved Carolina and the beautiful campus and the academics, and he loved his lacrosse."

At St. Mary's High School, many seniors went home early. James D. Moorhead, the school's president and Kevin's former lacrosse coach, delivered the news to the students, crying as he spoke over the public address system at 8 a.m.

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