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Family of slain University of Tampa student pleads for help in wake of reward

TAMPA — No father wants to do this: stand at a podium, choke back tears and beg for someone to come forward with information about his son's killer.

Yet there, again, was Kevin McCall, nearly a year after his 21-year-old son, University of Tampa student Ryan McCall, was gunned down on his walk home from a bar with a friend.

"We're pleading again," Mr. McCall said at a Wednesday news conference announcing a new $50,000 reward in the case. "It's been a tough 11 months for us."

Local law firm Winters and Yonker is putting up the money, which will be available for a year for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in McCall's slaying. Tipsters can contact CrimeStoppers of Tampa Bay toll-free at 1-800-873-8477 and remain anonymous.

If the reward isn't claimed within a year, the law firm could extend the claim time or may convert the donation to a scholarship in McCall's honor.

Attorney Bill Winters said the firm was inspired by the $100,000 reward offered before the July 2 surrender of Dontae Morris, accused of killing two police officers. But it was a young legal assistant at the firm, Danielle Dixon, who originally had the idea.

Dixon is friends with Ryan McCall's older brother, Kevin McCall, Jr. They graduated from UT the year Ryan McCall began as a freshman.

"It just kind of pulled at my heartstrings," Dixon said. "To get this reward rolling … it felt like a good opportunity to light some sparks in this case."

McCall was shot about 3 a.m. on Aug. 19. He and out-of-town friend Michael Harahan were walking home from the Retreat Lounge near the UT campus when a man jumped out of the bushes at the N Boulevard bridge demanding money. McCall and Harahan gave the man the few dollars they had, but the man shot McCall anyway before running off.

McCall died at the base of the bridge, and Harahan fled, calling 911.

Police say the shooter is a black man with a dark complexion in his mid 20s with a 1- to 1 1/2-inch afro, possibly in twists, and light facial hair on his chin.

His voice can be heard on Harahan's 911 call, re-released after the Wednesday news conference.

Tampa police Maj. Tom Wolff said the case is still hot, and investigators are still chasing "dozens" of leads. Wolff said he's sure someone in the community knows something that could lead police to the killer.

He hopes whoever that is would do the right thing, but if the money is the motivator, that's okay, too.

"This is an important day for the Ryan McCall investigation," Wolff said.

He would not say whether he thinks the killer is still in the Tampa Bay area.

Deputy Lisa Haber, head of CrimeStoppers, said the service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No tip will go unnoticed, Haber promised.

CrimeStoppers offered its own $1,000 reward immediately after the Aug. 19 killing. That reward remains available for information that leads to an arrest.

Haber said four tips have come in so far.

Like the investigators and McCall's family, Haber said it doesn't matter to her who gets the money — as long as good information comes in.

"The most important thing is to find out who did this," Haber said.

After the news conference, Kevin McCall stood by as reporters prepared to interview him on camera. He fidgeted, unsure where to look or how to stand. He took a few deep breaths, put away his handkerchief, gave a nod to his now only son, Kevin Jr.

Someone asked him how he feels, whether this reward helps him move on, in some way.

"I don't know what that means. I don't know what 'move on' means," McCall said.

A few minutes later, they unhooked their microphones. McCall said thank you, said goodbye to investigators and walked out the door.

No father wants to do this.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

Family of slain University of Tampa student pleads for help in wake of reward 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:49pm]
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