Friends, family say goodbye to teen

Viewing held for Robert A. Brazell Jr., who was fatally injured in a brawl last month

March 05, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,SUN REPORTER

In pairs or packs of three and five, the teens who counted Robert A. Brazell Jr. as a friend walked into the funeral home to say their final goodbyes.

Buffeted by strong winds, they and other mourners filed through the doors of Haight Funeral Home & Chapel in Sykesville, out from under a bright but cloudy sky, to mourn and remember the 18-year-old from Ellicott City. As the afternoon wore on, those who came filled the room where his casket lay open and a slideshow of photos played during a two-hour viewing.

Brazell died Feb. 25, after being hit on the head with an aluminum baseball bat during an early-morning fight the day before on a school football field, according to Howard County police. Brazell had been a student at the school, Mount Hebron High in Ellicott City, until he withdrew in December, police said. Some of the school's staff attended the viewing yesterday.

Despite their plans to return for the funeral at 11 a.m. today, several students said they still felt compelled to come out yesterday and show their support for Brazell - and for each other.

"That was my boy," said Michael Harris, 17, who regularly hung out with Brazell, playing basketball and football. "I'd do anything for him, and he'd do anything for me."

Whether they had known him for years, as Harris did, or through mutual friends, many described Brazell as fun-loving, with a passion for football and a flair for making people laugh.

"He always had a smile on his face," said Philippe Duvall, 17, who played on the school football team with Brazell. "He was always happy ... kind of a carefree guy."

Greg Serafino, 16, smiled as he recalled one of Brazell's stunts: He climbed up a tree and then jumped down from it "just to make everybody laugh," Serafino said.

"He got along with everyone," said Emily Mellendick, 16, who goes to school in Catonsville but knew Brazell through friends. "He was just such a fun guy," she said.

The Brazell Harris knew was also a playful "daredevil." Brazell would often jump over a fence a few feet high near Harris' house, he said, sometimes doing front flips over it. Harris recalled the young athlete playing football in the snow, "with shorts and no shirt."

For Harris and others, remembering how alive Brazell was made seeing him yesterday all the more difficult.

"You'd least expect Robby to go down like that," Harris said. "It hurts. It's unbelievable."

Another friend, standing outside the funeral home with Harris, agreed. "I can't believe he's gone," he said to Harris. "It doesn't even look like him."

Mellendick and Katie Romeo, 17, said seeing Brazell in his casket and listening to people exchange stories about him made the week-old news of his death finally sink in.

"It just makes everything really real," Mellendick said.

Since Brazell's death, a group on facebook.com, a social networking site, has been formed in his honor. Called "In Loving Memory of Robby Brazell," it features pictures of him and had more than 400 members as of yesterday.

Although the exact cause of the brawl in which Brazell was involved remains unclear, authorities said they believe it was part of a dispute between rival high-school groups. Last week, authorities were investigating a possible link with a fight days earlier at a location a few miles from the football field where the deadly skirmish occurred.

The police are also looking into an underage drinking party near the football field that took place the same night as the melee.

Brazell was one of three people found injured after police were called to the scene about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 24, Howard County police said. All three were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, police said, where Brazell died and the two other victims were treated and released.

Kevin F. Klink, 18, a former wrestler who graduated from Oakland Mills High School last year, has been charged with first-degree murder in Brazell's death.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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