LARGO — The sound of unalloyed human grief is hard to describe, but easy to recognize. When wild cries destroyed the midafternoon silence Sunday on Parkview Lane, residents of this ordinarily peaceful neighborhood abutting Taylor Park in Largo knew something was wrong.
No no no no no.
Lynnda Swaine heard the screams as she was frosting a cake Sunday afternoon. "I knew by the tone," she said, "that something had happened." Running into the street, she found her neighbor, Angee Crayton, keening over the body of Elijah, her 8-year-old son.
The boy's skateboard and one of his shoes were lying next to him. Another neighbor, Sarah Boyle, stepped out of a Buick sedan, trembling. According to Swaine and other bystanders, the 36-year-old choked out a phrase she would frantically repeat during the hours to come: I didn't see him.
Elijah Crayton was fatally injured when Boyle accidentally ran him over shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday as he was playing on a skateboard outside his house, according to the Largo Police Department. Police said the boy was sitting on his skateboard and rolling down his driveway into the street when he shot out in front of Boyle's moving car. He was taken by helicopter to a local hospital, where he died, police said.
Largo's traffic homicide unit continued to investigate his death Monday, though Sgt. George Edmiston said it seemed to be the result of a tragic accident. Police said Boyle was probably driving below the speed limit, at 20 to 25 miles per hour, and that she said she saw Elijah just a "split second" before he was in front of her. She tried to stop, but it was too late, Edmiston said.
A woman who answered the door at Boyle's house — just a short walk around the corner from the Crayton residence — declined to speak to a reporter. Elijah Crayton's parents could not be reached for comment.
Elijah was a student in the third grade at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Largo. Grief counselors were made available at the school Monday, said Pinellas schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez.
"He was one of my favorites," said Mark Warady, Elijah's teacher. "He was a sweet kid. His smile would light up the whole room. I actually called him my 'little character,' because he had his own ways of doing things." Warady added, "He always tried his best. His work wasn't always 'A' quality work, but you knew he tried."
Warady's other students wrote down their memories of Elijah as an exercise in class on Monday. Recurring elements in their recollections were his smile and his fondness for playing football at recess. "I think a lot of them don't understand, really, that he's gone forever," Warady said.
On Monday morning, a tall candle had been placed on the sidewalk next to an orange circle police had painted in the street to mark the spot where Elijah's head came to rest in the accident. Someone had sat a large teddy bear upright next to the candle, along with a plush monkey in a little leather jacket emblazoned with the word Love.
By twilight, the impromptu tribute had grown into a small congregation of stuffed animals, including more teddy bears, a penguin and a pig. More votive candles had been laid out, as well as bouquets of flowers.
Neighborhood resident Roseann Catalano said she had begun the small memorial the previous night as she stood outside. "It just seemed very dark, and it seemed very lonely, so I went in my house and took out a candle," she said.
As Catalano spoke to a reporter Monday evening, it was growing dark again. The cluster of candles cast a weak circle of light on the pavement. At the Crayton residence across the street, a handsome brick house with a basketball hoop in the driveway, the lights were out and the blinds were drawn.
News researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.