Cecil County teacher on vacation in Belize is shot dead by robbers Man slain as he drew knife to protect wife, son

July 08, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

A popular Cecil County science teacher vacationing in Central America with his wife and son was slain by robbers Sunday night.

Raymond M. Kirk, 47, of Chesapeake City was shot by one of three men who arrived at a small Belize resort by boat, consumed a meal, then held up the patrons. Kirk, who was in a cabana adjacent to the dining area, was murdered as he drew a knife to protect his wife, Diane "Beth" Kirk, 47, and 11-year-old son, Sean.

Kirk, who arranged the vacation to see rain forests, tropical vegetation and fish, was known as a teacher who animated his North East Middle School classroom with his personality and live reptile exhibits.

Sally Steeds, co-owner of the Singing Sands Inn at Seine Bight on the Placencia Peninsula of southern Belize, was serving drinks at a crowded bar when the incident occurred.

Steeds described a "jolly evening" -- guests clustered around an open-air bar and restaurant in a secluded resort known for its white sand beaches on the Caribbean Sea. Belize -- the former British Honduras -- is about the size of Massachusetts and borders Mexico and Guatemala.

Steeds said that three men arrived in a small motorboat Sunday and ordered food. They consumed some of it, then began brandishing a pistol and rifle.

"I thought it was some kind of joke. I said to one of them, 'Stop upsetting the people with that rifle,' " Steeds said.

The robbers took a man's ring, several wallets, cigarettes and a portable telephone. They were heading back to their boat when they stopped at a row of six thatched-roof cabanas at the water's edge.

"It was the only cabana lighted. [One of the robbers] opened the door and Kirk had a knife. The shooting was a reflexive reaction. It was all quite disorganized and very opportunistic," Steeds said.

A U.S. State Department information sheet on Belize issued in March said: "Crimes against tourists at resorts, while not unheard of, are rare." An embassy spokesman said yesterday that the information sheet was being revised.

No arrests have been made in Kirk's slaying.

Kirk, born in Philadelphia, was a graduate of Temple University and Loyola College in Baltimore. He joined the Cecil County public school system in 1981 after teaching for several years in Virginia Beach, Va.

"I never liked science before I was in Mr. Kirk's class. He was bubbly and he made it all interesting. His room was full of animals in cages -- live spiders, snakes and turtles," said Bobbie Jo Smeltzer, 16, of Rising Sun.

Kirk's colleagues described a teacher who loved his career and students.

"He was very much admired by his students and the school staff," said Henry Schaffer, a Cecil County school official. "He chaperoned dances, led the video club and coached soccer and basketball."

Rose Greer, a North East Middle School teacher, said that Kirk planned the Belize trip throughout the school year. "He wanted it to be a learning vacation," she said, one that would appeal to his wife -- also a Cecil County teacher -- and son.

"He was first and foremost a family man. He was devoted to his wife and son," Greer said.

She described his classroom as a place where students were introduced to earth, life and physical science in a lively, personal manner. "It was a hands-on room," she said.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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