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Central High graduate dies in Thanksgiving car crash

SPRING HILL — A school administrator said she was brilliant. Her former cheerleading coach said she was beautiful and athletic, with a character and personality to match. Her closest friends said she had a smile that brightened a room and a laugh that enchanted.

But Thursday they all said exactly the same thing:

Twenty-three year-old Amanda Warren Bebout was taken away from them too early, the victim of a tragic Thanksgiving night car crash.

"She's the child that you would want to have," said Ruth Owen, Mrs. Bebout's cheerleading coach during her four years at Central High School.

•••

The crash happened about 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving in Louisiana's Richmond Parish, located in the state's rural northeast.

Bebout lived with her husband of just over four months in nearby Oak Ridge.

Troopers said 24-year-old Susan Griffioen of Mobile, Alabama was driving. The 1999 Toyota Camry ran off the roadway to the right before traveling back across both lanes and overturning. Mrs. Bebout was partially thrown from the front passenger seat and pronounced dead at the scene.

Griffioen, a friend of Mrs. Bebout's, was wearing her seatbelt and did not report any injuries.

Authorities suspect Griffioen was impaired, and she was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and DWI. She blew a .145 on a Breathalyzer test after the crash, well above the Louisiana's legal limit of .08.

The crash is still under investigation.

•••

Mrs. Bebout's life was just beginning.

A 2007 Central High graduate, Mrs. Bebout, whose maiden name was Warren, was her class's salutatorian. She went on to study business administration at Florida State University, graduating in 2010.

She was moving up the corporate ladder at JCPenney and moved to Louisiana from Florida a little more than a year ago when she was promoted to a supervisor position at the store in Monroe.

Ambitious and competent, she never lost her bubbly persona even when things got hectic, said Pat Pender, a master stylist in the JCPenney's salon. Bebout was promoted to assistant store manager about two months ago.

"She would have had her own store before long," Pender, 68, said by phone from the salon on Thursday. "She was that good."

"We're all just heartbroken," she said. "It's like she should be walking around the corner any minute."

•••

Mrs. Bebout and her husband, Lowell Bebout, were married in July, the culmination of eight years of dating and a much longer friendship.

"They were both obsessed with each other," said close family friend Kayla Rizzo, 20.

The two met at Deltona Elementary School, she said, when they were in the fourth grade.

They were close friends, but didn't start dating until 2004.

March 6, 2004, to be exact, Rizzo recalled. Mrs. Bebout always liked to remember the date.

Rizzo said the couple was perfect together. They both had goofy personalities.

He also didn't mind her love of animals. Translation: She owned 10 dogs, picking up strays and nursing them back to health, Rizzo said.

Although Mrs. Bebout was doing well at JCPenney, she was ready for a change.

Rizzo said she was getting ready to move back home, and going back to school to become a teacher.

"She wanted to go into eduction," she said.

•••

Mrs. Bebout's service on Thursday — at the Turner Funeral Homes chapel in Spring Hill — was attended by an overflow crowd of families and friends.

They came from far and wide to be there for her, remembering a promising life cut short.

"They drove from all over the state of Florida to be there for her," Owen said. "She was just an incredible young lady.

Before the service, her former high school also honored her.

Thursday morning, they planted a tree near the front entrance of the school, for all to see.

Next to it is a small blue plaque that reads: "In Memory Of Amanda Warren Bebout — 2007 Graduate."

"It's just important to recognize when you lose a loved one," said principal Joe Clifford. "It's just a simple little gesture."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. Tweet him @HernandoTimes.

Central High graduate dies in Thanksgiving car crash 11/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:31pm]
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