Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Slain Zephyrhills teen remembered as a 'gentle giant'

ZEPHYRHILLS — Sam Smith had a red punching bag in the back yard of his parents' house where he would train and dream about becoming a mixed martial arts athlete or even get on Ultimate Fighting Championship.

But in a real fight, his friends and family say, he'd be the first to walk away.

That's what they say happened Saturday night at a house party when another man challenged Smith to a fight. Smith, 19, was sitting in a lawn chair refusing to throw a punch when the other man knocked him out with one blow, then continued pummeling him. Smith was taken to a local hospital where he died early Sunday morning.

"He was sitting down the whole time," said his girlfriend, Rheannon Bahneman, 19.

Pasco deputies arrested Richard Starks Jr., 27, on a charge of second-degree murder. The married father of two remained in the Pasco County jail Monday with bail set at $150,000.

He and Smith were strangers, Bahneman said.

Jason Wansor, a friend of Starks' who witnessed the fight, told the Times that Starks, a redhead, was upset over Smith calling him a "ginger" and taunting him for having "weak knees." Wansor also said people were drinking rum and vodka at the party, which may have helped fuel the fight.

On Monday, friends of Smith trickled into his parents' home off State Road 54 just west of Zephyrhills. His new puppy, Billy, ran around the yard with other dogs as the group reminisced about the 6-foot-6 man his father, John, called a "gentle giant."

He was kind and mellow and liked to laugh, his friend Zak Broughan, 22, said, and gave "the best hugs in the world."

Smith, who graduated in 2010 from Wiregrass Ranch High School, was big into video games and doing things outdoors. He preferred to be barefoot.

"He was a very good friend," Kyle Youngblood said. "He would help you any way he could."

Smith's mother, Mary, said she was amazed at the sea of cars parked outside her house the day after her son's death.

"I did not realize the friends that he had," she said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or on Twitter at @mmoorheadtimes.

Slain Zephyrhills teen remembered as a 'gentle giant' 07/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 25, 2011 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Taylor Swift ends intrigue, announces new album in November

    Blogs

    Yes, Taylor Swift fans, Wednesday was a lucky one for you.

    This cover image released by Big Machine shows art for her upcoming album, "reputation," expected Nov. 10.
  2. Taking heat from some for Charlottesville remarks, Rubio denounces the 'other side'

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio, who has come under fire for not denouncing the “Antifa,” did so in a speech last night in Florida, bemoaning people “on the other side of the political spectrum who …

    Marco Rubio on the campaign trail in 2015
  3. How to make a Strawberry Banana Smoothie

    Cooking

    Don't enjoy breakfast but need to get something in your stomach? Cranky around 3 p.m. and need a jolt of energy? Have trouble getting your daily recommended fruit servings? This smoothie is the cure for all of that and more. It's become my morning go-to. The secret ingredient here is kefir, a probiotic product that's …

    Strawberry Banana Smoothie. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  4. How to tell if the price is right on your next prescription

    Medicine

    Filling a prescription is no longer the simple errand you run after a doctor visit.

    Photo illustration. [iStockphoto.com]
  5. Rubio to Seminole County GOP: 'America is going to be okay'

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a reshaped stump speech Tuesday night to the Seminole County GOP, touching on many of the same points he made as a presidential candidate but adapting it to the tumultuous politics of the moment.

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.