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Attackers came back, brought their friends As many as 20 men assaulted visiting Marylanders on stroll

April 19, 1998|By Caitlin Francke, Todd Richissin and Del Quentin Wilber | Caitlin Francke, Todd Richissin and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The parents and sons drank beer and smoked marijuana together, she said, but all of them -- until they ran out on the rent six months ago -- were unfailingly polite.

Neil Kirkland and Daniel Osborne both live in tree-lined, middle-class neighborhoods in Edgewater, a town just south of New Smyrna Beach.

Kirkland, who earned extra money cleaning neighbors' cars, often was in trouble with his parents, his friend Kristy Robinson said.

"They threw him out last week," said Robinson, who lives across the street from his parents. Often, Kirkland would sleep in his car. Yesterday, his blue Ford Taurus sat across the street from his parents' house. Two pillows were in the driver's seat.

No more than two miles away, Phil Carter remembered the last time he saw Osborne. He had come to Carter's house about a week ago with Joshua Trull to visit Carter's son, Chris, and fix a chain saw.

"They seemed like kids, you know," Carter said yesterday. "I don't know how something like that can get out of control."

But Thursday night, police said, that's exactly what happened.

It was peaceful at Ocean Palms at about 8 p.m. A couple of the Maryland men were playing cards with some of the elderly vacationers at the complex. Smith was reportedly in the condo playing a video game.

Shortly after the card game ended, witnesses said, the Maryland men decided to take a walk on the long stretch of beach fronting the Atlantic.

As they approached the sand, though, the men from the afternoon fight appeared -- with several other men, police and witnesses said. One neighbor, as well as the mothers of two victims, said the gang included as many as 20 men.

They had gathered at a baby blue duplex across the street from the condo. Several other local men were dropped off by friends down the road, according to a witness who did not want to be identified because he fears reprisals.

The local men were armed with baseball bats and knives.

W. P. Perkins rushed to his balcony in Ocean Palms when he heard noise outside. Looking down, he saw Qubeck being struck with a club. The young man collapsed.

As many as 10 men ran onto the Ocean Palms property, Perkins said. They dashed all around. Past the sandbox. Up the stairs. To the pool. Blood was all over -- covering a sidewalk, the stairs, an area around the pool.

Wichita died just a few feet from the pool -- and an arm's length from his door. Hall managed to make it past the room and down 10 beige stucco steps. He collapsed in a heap on the resort's sandy driveway, witnesses said.

"This is a very quiet place," Perkins said. "You get to know people pretty well. When they leave, you say, 'Hey, take care of yourself, we'll see you next year.' It's camaraderie. There was not a lot of camaraderie [that] night."

Relatives and friends spoke yesterday about the longest hours of their lives Thursday night and Friday morning.

Cristine Smith, Sam's mother, recalls struggling through phone books, looking for families' names and numbers, after getting the initial call about 10 p.m. "The newspapers and television keep calling them men," she said. "But they're really just boys."

Christine Neperud, Wichita's mother, told friend Joan Ford: "It's all I can see, him lying there on that beach, people beating him. And he was just beginning to grow up.

"I want to remember him with his big smile."

Today, friends and family are waiting for the funerals, trying to comfort each other. Inevitably, the talk turns to memories.

Hall "was just the nicest guy in the world," Hans Allen said of his friend. "His smile could really light up a room."

Michael Wichita, Matthew's father, was sleeping on his Pennsylvania farm Friday when two state troopers knocked on his door. It was dark, Wichita recalled, and the troopers' backs were to him as the red police lights reflected off the fog.

"They stood there, looking away, like they were looking for an intruder," he said. Then the trooper said Matthew had been involved in a fight, that something had happened. Matthew, they told him, "had passed on."

"He had a very level head on his shoulder," the father said. "Each hour and day that goes by, this hits me more and more.

"I haven't even gotten the full shock yet. One simply doesn't prepare to lose a son at all."

Pub Date: 4/19/98

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