Teen on spring break murdered

Published Mar. 17, 1996|Updated Sep. 15, 2005

Before Mark Fyke left on a spring break trip to Daytona Beach, his mother warned him about violence in Florida and told him to be careful.

But late Friday night, the conversation between Fyke, 18, and his mother in Canada was about hockey and a successful weeklong vacation with his high school buddies.

Then with a casual, "Mom, I gotta go," Fyke told his mother goodbye and hung up the pay phone. Within minutes, the Canadian teenager and former altar boy was shot once in the back of the head on Daytona Beach, apparently by another teenager who wanted to rob him.

Fifteen minutes later in Belleville, Ontario, Christine Fyke learned her eldest son was dead.

Nicole Lentini, Mark Fyke's cousin, called home in tears just after midnight from Daytona Beach to tell her parents Mark had been killed. Soon Christine Fyke's brother-in-law had arrived on her doorstep in Belleville to deliver the news.

"He was a very dependable, reliable, all-around good boy," Christine Fyke said during a tearful interview from her home Saturday. "He never caused any trouble. He was a super son."

Daytona Beach police were searching for the killer and others involved, but did not make any arrests.

Early Saturday, news of the killing had spread quickly through Belleville, a city of 35,000 residents between Toronto and Montreal. Family members watched news reports on television as Canadian reporters began to arrive in Daytona Beach.

Christine Fyke said she had just hung up with her son when he was confronted by a group of teenagers outside the Thunderbird Beach Motel, where he was staying.

"He'd just called to tell me what was going on, and I heard some noise in the background and thought someone else wanted to use the phone," Christine Fyke said. "He said he'd be home Sunday and he'd see me later."

Police said that shortly after Fyke hung up the phone, five to seven young people walked from the beach and approached Fyke and 17-year-old Che Guerrera, also of Ontario. One member of the group picked up the phone, then set it back down.

The teen grabbed Fyke and demanded his wallet or money. Then, he fired a shot from a small-caliber gun. Fyke died at the scene. Guerrera was not injured. The assailants ran back toward the beach, leaving the gun in the sand, next to Fyke's body.

Brandon Van Hecke, a high school student from Minnesota, was standing near the pool at the Thunderbird when he saw people running toward the south side of the motel.

"I didn't hear the shots, but I ran over and the kid was laying on the ground and his head was bleeding," said Van Hecke, 17. "His friend was leaning over him, crying. I've never seen anything like it."

Police described the suspect as white, 14 to 16 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall, heavyset, with short, sandy-blond hair. He was wearing a long sweat shirt, either red or orange. Police think the killer is a local resident.

Mark Fyke was the second foreign tourist killed in Florida in the past three weeks.

During their last phone call, Mark told his mother he was having a good time even though it had been too chilly to spend much time on the beach. He and others from a Catholic high school in Belleville spent most of their time lounging at the pool at the Thunderbird.

It was one of several conversations Mark had with his mother last week from a bank of pay phones near the motel, which sits at the entrance to a popular stretch of beach where an estimated 300,000 teenagers gather for spring break.

Many students used the pay phones to call home, avoiding high charges and spotty service from phones at the motel, relatives said.

On Saturday, Mark Fyke's classmates and friends boarded a bus for home. The phone bank had been removed from a wall near the public restroom at the walkway to the beach. A small sign urged anyone with information on the shooting to call police. It was not clear who had removed the phones.

Three roses _ two pink, one red _ lay in the dirt near the spot. Oblivious to the violence that took place less than 24 hours earlier, teenagers in sandals trudged in from the beach Saturday afternoon. One almost stepped on the withered roses.

"There ain't no sense in it," said Albert Thompson, 36, a Thunderbird maintenance worker. "He was here, just trying to have a good time and now he's dead.

"I lived here all my life and never seen nothing like this. I tell the kids to watch out, but what are they gonna do when someone's got a gun to their head?"

Many of those lounging at pools and on the beach Saturday had heard about the shooting. Some remembered the large group of kids from Canada staying at the Thunderbird.

"They were out here with us, hanging out," said 18-year-old Luke Schommer, a high school student from Minnesota. "I probably talked to the kid. We all did."

With relatively cheap rooms _ $85 for a beach view _ the Thunderbird, like every other motel on the beach, is filled with high school and college students on spring break.

A sign outside the purple-and-white building reads, "Welcome Breakers." Fliers inside the office advertise beach parties and drink specials.

Christine Fyke warned her son of danger before he boarded a bus for Daytona Beach last week. Stay with your friends, she said. Don't wander off alone. Be aware of your surroundings.

"He said, "Yeah, Mom, I know' or "Yeah, Aunt Pam, I know and everything is going to be okay,' " said Pamela Smith, Mark's aunt. "He was a bright boy, but obviously it doesn't matter how bright you are. You are never prepared for something like that."

Mark was a student at Nicholson Catholic College, a high school where he played hockey and baseball. He also worked part time at McDonald's and rooted for the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Relatives gathered at the Fyke home Saturday and tried to make sense of the loss. For Christine Fyke and her two children, it had been a sleepless 14 hours. Others struggled with feelings of anger.

"If they wanted the money, they could have taken it," Pamela Smith said. "They didn't have to do what they did. He was a wonderful kid. The void that is left behind will never be filled."

In Daytona Beach, officials were quick to insist that violent crimes against tourists are rare and that visitors have little to fear.

"Daytona Beach is no Miami," said Joe Wooden, deputy chief of the Volusia County Beach Patrol. "The beach is typically where people go to enjoy themselves. We really don't have much crime on the beach, especially violent crime."

A memorial service is planned at Nicholson College Monday. Counselors also will be on hand to comfort students.

"It's just been a nightmare," Pamela Smith said. "I just want to wake up and hope this is all a dream."

_ Information from the Belleville Intelligencer and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Foriegn visitor killings in Florida

Friday night's slaying of a Canadian tourist in Daytona Beach was the second random killing of a foreign visitor in Florida in less than a month, and one of several murders of visitors during the 1990's.

The earlier victim's were:

+ Tosca Dieperink, 39, a Dutch tourist shot Feb. 23, while she waited in her rental car for her husband to ask directions at a gas station in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood.

+ Gary Colley, 34, of Yorkshire, England, killed Sept. 14, 1993, in robbery attempt at an interstate highway rest stop near Monticello in rural North Florida.

+ Uwe-Wilhelm Rakebrand, of Adendorf, Germany, shot to death on Sept. 8, 1993, after his rental car was bumped from behind on a Miami expressway.

+ Barbara Meller Jensen, 39, of Berlin, killed by robbers April 2, 1993, when she, her two children and her mother got lost and strayed off an interstate highway into a northeast Miami neighborhood.

+ German tourist Jorge Schell, 59, shot to death outside a motel in Homestead, southwest of Miami, just after he and his wife parked their rental car and checked in on March 11, 1993.

+ Venezuelan Jesus Delgado, 47, a diplomat on a stopover in Miami after vacationing at home from his post in Switzerland, shot while being robbed outside a friend's home on Jan. 26, 1993.

+ Ontario businessman Ralph Passero, 56, shot when he tried to drive away from an apparent robber outside a restaurant in the Sunny Isles beach area north of Miami on Jan. 22, 1993.

+ Air Canada executive Marc Nadeau, 33, shot to death in Lake Worth, near Palm Beach, on Dec. 29, 1992, while walking his father and son to a store to buy milk.

+ German tourist Rudi Rohloff, 54, shot to death Dec. 8, 1992, while strolling along a quiet street in Fort Myers, with his fiance.

+ Keith Thompson, 42, of Chelmsford, England, shot and killed Oct. 3, 1992 after refusing to give up his wallet to robbers who accosted him, his wife and two friends outside and Orlando-area motel.