Keith Sampson was growing so fast, his family said.
"At the start of (last) summer, he was shorter than me," Robert Sampson said Tuesday of his 14-year-old grandson. "At the end of the summer, he was taller. He was more than 6 feet tall."
Robert Sampson eagerly showed a reporter photos of his grandson, especially photos in which Keith is standing next to his older brother Stephone. Sampson pointed out that Keith soon would have been taller than his brother.
Keith eventually could have reached the height _ if not the bulk _ of his favorite basketball player, Shaquille O'Neal. The lanky teen wanted to be a professional basketball player like O'Neal.
But Keith, a freshman at Zephyrhills High school, never got the chance.
They ended when Keith was pronounced dead about 6 p.m. Sunday, an hour after he was stabbed through his heart with a paring knife.
Police have charged a 13-year-old girl with second-degree murder in Keith's slaying.
Witnesses told police that the girl stabbed Keith during an argument on King Street in front of Lincoln Heights Park in Zephyrhills. She is not named because of her age.
Zephyrhills police received a call about 4:55 p.m., police Capt. Robert Howell said. Officers at the scene administered CPR until an ambulance arrived. Keith was taken to East Pasco Medical Center, where he died.
The girl who allegedly stabbed Keith walked home. Police picked her up later, and she directed them to where she had tossed the knife, Howell said. She was charged with aggravated battery, which was upgraded to second-degree murder after Keith died.
Witnesses told investigators that Keith, who lived in the Lumberton area, and the Zephyrhills girl were dating, and were arguing over the return of some jewelry they had traded, Howell said.
"One had a necklace and the other had a ring, and one didn't want to give the other the property back," Howell said.
The argument began outside a home in the Green Meadows subdivision where a relative of the girl lives. Keith and two cousins had ridden there on bicycles. Outside the home, witnesses said, the girl slashed one of the tires of Keith's bicycle with the paring knife.
Later, at Lincoln Heights Park, the girl still had the knife, Howell said.
Witnesses said Keith was trying to take the knife from her hand and fell backward. When he moved toward her again, she stabbed him once in the chest, they said.
Patrick Sampson, Keith's cousin, said Keith at first didn't react to the stabbing.
"He was just walking and looking around," Patrick said. "Then he pulled his shirt down and looked down and saw the blood, and then he fainted."
The girl is being held in the Juvenile Detention Center in East Pasco. Her mother said she spoke to her daughter by phone Monday evening.
"I know she didn't mean to do it," she said. "That's what she keeps telling me. She keeps sobbing and saying, "I didn't mean to do it.' "
The girl, an eighth-grader at Stewart Middle School in Zephyrhills, has never been in trouble before, her mother said.
"I never let her run on the streets, and I knew whenever she went somewhere," she said. "And she was not dating. I know that. Maybe she talked on the phone with him sometimes, but they were just being kids."
Keith's grandparents, who raised Keith since he was 4, agreed.
"Maybe they had talked on the phone, but they were not boyfriend-girlfriend," said Ollie Mae Sampson, Keith's grandmother.
Keith's death is the latest of several family tragedies to befall Robert and Ollie Mae Sampson.
Keith's parents died in Tampa in 1984, they said. The Sampsons said police told them their son Kenneth shot his wife, Paulette, in the head and then shot himself. The Sampsons dispute that scenario. They think the couple was murdered. Keith and Stephone came to live with them after the deaths.
In 1979, the Sampsons said, their daughter Gloria and her 3-year-old son, Jarvis, were killed in an automobile accident.
Ollie Mae Sampson said she is coping with Keith's death in the way she coped with the others, relying on her religious beliefs.
"I cope because I know the Bible tells me (not to) worry about the things you cannot do anything about," she said. "I cannot change this."
Despite that, Robert Sampson said, his wife has taken the death hard. When the school bus reached Keith's stop Monday morning, he said, "I saw her looking out the window. She was crying."