Father searches for answers after son stabbed to death in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — What is left of 25-year-old David Kilen on Franklin Street is not a living man, or even a lifeless body, but a plum-colored matte of grass some 30 feet from his front door. The stain marks the place where Kilen lay down in the darkness early Wednesday morning, bleeding into the weeds when he could stagger no farther toward home.

His father, Rick Kilen, 52, has been searching for more.

He looked for David after he got a phone call on a late work shift and rushed home, driving his car through a taut line of crime-scene tape as police tried to shout him away. He waited for him in a family counseling room at Morton Plant Hospital, trying to pry news from nurses and doctors until a police officer arrived to say David was dead.

He was still waiting late Wednesday morning, staring from his front porch with tired blue eyes at the overgrown street corner where David, losing blood from multiple knife wounds, sprawled as he tried to get back to the house. Kilen said police told him he could not see the body until after an autopsy was complete.

"They told me I would contaminate crime-scene evidence if I cried over my boy," Kilen said. "I still haven't seen him."

Clearwater police say David Kilen was stabbed to death at half past midnight on Wednesday morning by his neighbor, Ronald Lefave, 43. Lefave was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail without bail.

According to police, the stabbing took place at Lefave's house at 226 S Hillcrest Ave., a modest neighborhood east of Missouri Avenue and south of Cleveland Street in Clearwater. Kilen and his family lived around the corner, on Franklin. Lefave was having a cookout. He and Kilen were friends.

"Dave was a troublemaker in and out. He was a good guy, but he had his issues with the law. Ron, for as long as I've known him, he's been as gentle as a fly," said Raven Ball, 19, who lives across the street from the Kilens. She said she had been at a Super Bowl party with both men Sunday.

Ball said she was not at the cookout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and was unsure what prompted the argument. Empty beer cans and a half-empty package of hot dog buns littered the lawn at Lefave's house Wednesday. Nobody answered the door.

"Ron always talked highly of David," Ball said. "He tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, which was hard with his track record."

In fact, their track records weren't so different. Both had lengthy criminal records. Lefave's charges have included vehicle theft and drug possession; David Kilen's burglary, drug possession and battery.

David's father said he knew his son was boisterous. He used to tell him that, with the way he yelled, he should either be a Marine or a prison guard. He thought his son was beginning to fly straight.

"David's been in trouble, but he's done so much lately," Kilen said. "S--t was going the right way for him."

Paul Cooper, 25, a friend and neighbor of the Kilens, called David "a good dude" who loved to fish.

Kilen said he had last seen his son Tuesday night about 10 p.m. David had just come back from fishing. He was sunburned and acted carefree. Dad, look at these fish, he said, hoisting a clutch of 3-foot red drums he'd caught in Old Tampa Bay.

Kilen, a T-shirt printer, went to work that night on a last-minute job. David went down the street, to Lefave's house.

On Wednesday morning the fish were in Kilen's freezer, where David had left them. Across the street, someone had placed a bouquet of white flowers and baby's breath on the blood-stained patch of ground where he collapsed.

Kilen stood in his front yard in sweatpants, answering phone calls and talking to friends who stopped by. He seemed distracted; his mind was elsewhere. He was waiting to hear from the police, who would tell him he could come and see his son.

News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com.

Father searches for answers after son stabbed to death in Clearwater 02/06/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 7:24pm]

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