Ceremony honors slain students Classmates, friends attend tree-planting for victims of attack

May 06, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Two Howard County men killed last month at a Florida resort were honored during an emotional ceremony yesterday at Howard County Community College, as a third man critically injured in the assault was released from a Florida hospital.

Two Japanese maple trees were dedicated to Kevans Bradshaw Hall II, 23, and Matthew Christopher Wichita, 21, who were stabbed and beaten with baseball bats after a confrontation with local men at an ocean-side resort south of Daytona Beach.

The attack left Hall and Wichita dead and a third man, 21-year-old Seth Kenyon Qubeck, with 17 stab wounds in his lower back. Qubeck, who had been recuperating in a Daytona Beach hospital since the April 17 incident, asked that his destination after his release be kept private.

In a statement released yesterday, Qubeck's mother, Suzanne Smallzman, said the assault teaches valuable lessons.

"We still have to be willing to help each other, but at the same time be cautious, to be as safe with that help as we can," Smallzman said. "Second, we have to learn that when bad things happen, we shouldn't blame the victims.

"And third, as parents, we must teach our young children that there are consequences for their actions, so they will grow up to be responsible people," she said.

Qubeck, Hall and Wichita lived in a townhouse in Columbia near Howard Community College, where Hall had been studying elementary education and Wichita network administration.

The victims -- graduates of Oakland Mills High School -- had gone to Florida with two other friends as part of a nine-day spring break trip.

Police in New Smyrna Beach said the Maryland men came to the aid of a young woman who was being hassled about an inexpensive friendship ring by a group of Florida men. After a fistfight, the Florida men returned in greater numbers with knives and aluminum baseball bats.

Four men have been arrested and charged in the killings, police said. They are searching for a fifth suspect in the case.

Hall and Wichita were eulogized during yesterday's ceremony as well-mannered, good-natured young men who would go out of their way to help anyone.

HCC student Leslie Martinez said Hall -- a former Air Force military police officer known as "K-Love" and "Nev" by his family and friends -- "was a true friend. He took care of me as if I were his sister. He was just like that. As soon as he knew you, he'd take care of you like you were family."

"Kevans was so special to us and to so many people," his aunt, Glenda Johnson, said. "It's certainly not a surprise to us that he would've tried to help someone if they were in trouble."

Matthew Sutton, a longtime friend of both men, said Hall and Wichita were known as "caring, exciting, and fearless. Matt was the life of every party, with a knock-out smile. His death has really touched the entire community."

Close to 100 people gathered in the Galleria, a central area where HCC students often congregate, to listen to gospel songs, poems and other personal tributes.

Columbia Council representative Pearl Atkinson-Stewart said she attended the ceremony as a show of support for Wichita's mother, Christine Neperud, who often volunteered in their neighborhood during the school year as a crossing guard when their children were growing up.

"I just remember that Chris took such good care to watch out for all of our children," Atkinson-Stewart said. "I'm just so sorry that there was no crossing guard in Florida."

After the ceremony, friends were invited to plant marigolds around the base of the trees.

Jim Ball, HCC vice president and dean of students, said the students' deaths should "remind all students to be careful when they depart for their own vacations. This tragedy teaches us how we should appreciate life."

Wichita's girlfriend, Jennifer T. Tiemeyer, said the memorial ceremony was helpful because it offered the community another chance to mourn the two men.

"I guess this ceremony represents a sense of closure for some people," she said. "But I'll never have that. They took the love of my life away."

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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