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Family of slain UT student struggles to move on


On Thanksgiving, members of the McCall family are thinking about putting an empty chair at the table.

Or they might try to have dinner as usual.

Or they might just hold one another and cry.

Thanksgiving will mark the first time the family has been together since the night three months ago when someone jumped out of the bushes near the N Boulevard Bridge and fatally shot popular University of Tampa student Ryan McCall, 21.

The McCalls are trying to move on, but they still haven't touched Ryan's room. Every day is more difficult as shock wears off and grief takes over, said his father, Kevin McCall.

"It's probably a normal thing with a loss," he said. "I don't know. Our normal is gone."

Shortly after the Aug. 19 shooting, police released the 911 call made by McCall's friend Michael Harahan, on which the killer's voice can be heard in the background.

Investigators are pursuing a few leads but have no suspects, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

A description of the killer was released just after the murder — a black man in his 30s, about 5 feet 10 and 180 pounds with a husky build, goatee and white T-shirt — but it's too general to lead to a suspect, McElroy said.

Harahan, a student at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, said he goes back to that night in his mind every day, hoping he can remember some new detail or a better description.

"I don't want to forget," Harahan said. "I don't want to run away from it."

A similar robbery this month at the bridge caused a stir among UT students and prompted police to look for a connection. But McElroy said there's no strong link so far.

On Nov. 7 about 2:25 a.m., another UT student and a friend were walking over the same bridge when they were confronted by someone who asked them if they wanted to buy drugs, according to a police report.

When the student said no, the man pulled out a black semiautomatic pistol and said, "Give me what you got," the report states.

The student gave him money, and the gunman fled west through the N Boulevard Homes public housing complex, police said.

"We don't have anything concrete that links the robbery to the murder," McElroy said. "We just have to be thorough and investigate that possibility because they both happened in that general location and both in the early hours, and both times the suspects were armed with handguns."

The gunman in the recent robbery is described as a black male, 18 to 21 years old, about 5 feet 9 and 160 pounds with a New York Yankees baseball cap and Yankees jacket.

"The problem with that description is that it matches the description of a large percentage of the population," McElroy said.

She said the UT campus and immediate area are safe but that students should be careful when walking anywhere in the middle of the night.

McCall's father agreed.

"These kids are kids. They still think they're invincible," he said. "It just gets me a little not angry but disappointed that people don't heed these warnings."

McCall said he doesn't think the family can move on emotionally until the case is closed. But as much as he longs for that day, "it doesn't change anything that happened."

He still talks of his son in present tense. That bothers his wife sometimes, but McCall said he can't help it. "I probably always will."

Harahan said it's hard to believe it has been three months since he spoke to his best friend. He and McCall used to catch up every day.

"I'm hoping they figure it out," Harahan said of investigators. "I know they're working hard. It's just tough. Hopefully someone who knows something will speak up."

Police ask anyone with information to call them at (813) 276-3200 or Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

Site of UT student Ryan McCall's Aug. 19 killing

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Family of slain UT student struggles to move on 11/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 9:31pm]
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