DOVER — Monica Knight knew something was wrong. Her son, Victor, wasn't answering his cell phone. The two were in Alabama on Thursday visiting her parents. Victor, 21, had borrowed her truck hours earlier to get a haircut.
It wasn't like him not to pick up.
She drove to St. Stephens Historical Park, which they had visited the day before. She found her truck there, and breathed a short-lived sigh of relief. At the edge of a 50-foot cliff, Knight discovered her son's guitar —and, next to it, a place where the ground appeared to have given way. Rescuers found Mr. Knight's body in a rock quarry below.
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Mr. Knight grew up in Dover, a place where "we know who we are and what we are," said his father, freelance mechanic and tree trimmer Darrell Knight. Mr. Knight grew up helping his father, whose "tough love" could sometimes reduce him to tears.
Though Mr. Knight's older brother, Vincent, had excelled at wrestling and Mr. Knight seemed even stronger and more talented, he lacked the killer instinct. His father compared him to Hoss Cartwright of Bonanza, a gentle giant.
"He was calm until you fired him up," said Dennis Kitko, wrestling coach for Durant High School, where Mr. Knight helped bring the Cougars their first regional title in 2004. "If something triggered him off, you'd better beware, because he could be an animal out there."
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Mr. Knight lived at home and worked at a flower shop. He taught himself guitar by studying Willie Nelson clips on YouTube. He had earned an associate's degree and hoped to become a pharmacist.
Lori Czizik, 20, met Mr. Knight in a mosh pit at the last Guavaween. They planned to marry.
After high school, Mr. Knight's weight rose to 240. "There were no leftovers," Monica Knight said. "After dinner, I would set the food on the stove, and the next day it was always gone."
A month ago on impulse, Mr. Knight pulled into First Baptist Church of Brandon and told the pastor he wanted to "recommit" his life to Christ.
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Vincent Knight, 27, said he doesn't understand why there was no warning sign by the cliff where his brother was sitting.
Jim Long, who directs the St. Stephens Historical Commission, said the park posts signs at its entrances. The signs read: "Danger — high bluffs."
As friends and relatives gathered at the Knight home Monday, Darrell Knight's phone rang. A client wanted him for a tree-trimming job. Knight said he would get back in a couple of weeks.
"You have to understand," Knight said. "I just lost my baby boy, and I don't have no heart."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (813) 661-2431 or [email protected]