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Teen found in Anclote River remembered for his charm, humor

NEW PORT RICHEY — When Sheree Butler spotted the swollen body in the Anclote River on Wednesday, she knew immediately it was her son.

It had been nearly three days since Butler had last seen 17-year-old Chase Konger-Weddle. On Tuesday evening, she reported to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office that he was missing, but, Butler said, no one seemed to be searching.

So Butler and another of her sons, Brandon Butler, 22, decided to look along the Anclote, behind their house on Riverbank Drive. It was about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

They walked four houses down, where Brandon came upon a body, wrapped around a tree in the water.

"I knew it was him," Sheree Butler, 58, said. "It's instinct."

She fell to her knees and began to scream.

Brandon Butler jumped into the water to retrieve the body. A next-door neighbor heard Sheree screaming and ran toward the river to help. The sheriff's marine unit recovered the body about 8 p.m. Authorities confirmed the identity on Friday, but said the cause of death had not been determined.

Lisa Cooper, who didn't know the family, but lives a few houses down, immediately came to comfort Sheree Butler.

"She kept saying she wanted to see her baby," Cooper said.

The Anclote River spilled over its banks after heavy rainfall in recent weeks. But authorities say they do not believe the floods were a factor in Chase's death.

Chase's mother and older brothers tried to grapple with their loss, unable to understand how a 6-foot-5, 220-pound teenager could have died in the river.

"It's eating me up," said Brandon Butler, 22, who was extremely close with his little brother.

He dreads going to sleep at night, because he knows that each time he wakes up, his brother will still be gone.

Family members remembered Chase as a sensitive, charming teen with a great sense of humor. He wanted to be a psychologist, Sheree Butler said.

"He had that knack with people," she said.

Chase, who had attended River Ridge High School, loved to cook and was constantly playing video games with Brandon. He was a movie buff, and a romantic at heart.

Sheree recalled a time last year when Chase came back from a date with a girl. He crawled into bed with his mother, telling her, "Mom, I had my first kiss. Now I know what love is all about."

The single mother has been disabled since she fell off a ladder, almost dying at the family's former home in Indiana several years ago. They moved to Florida after her accident to be closer to her family.

Shortly after, in August 2007, 9-year-old Chase and 14-year-old Brandon found a dead man lying motionless at the bottom of the swimming pool at River Side Inn in New Port Richey. A story about the incident was published in the Times.

Less than three months ago, the family lost Sheree Butler's mother to cancer.

"This family has been through too many tragedies," Sheree Butler said.

The last photo Chase posted on Facebook was in front of the Anclote a few weeks ago, showing the flooding in his back yard.

The family is in the process of planning a funeral for Chase, but Sheree Butler is not sure how they will be able to afford it. They have created a page at gofundme.com in hopes of raising money.

"It's like it's this vortex," said Derek Butler, Chase's 26-year-old brother. "Time and life just stopped."

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