Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ridgeview Somber after Death; 1 Student Charged with Killing Another

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ridgeview Somber after Death; 1 Student Charged with Killing Another

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

Ridgeview High students are "dealing with the worst" as one classmate is buried today and a second faces manslaughter charges in the death.

Thomas Lee White IV, 17, was initially charged with aggravated battery for hitting 15-year-old David Baez in the face Sept. 12 and putting him into a coma. But those charges were upgraded to manslaughter after David died Saturday.

White will be prosecuted as an adult and could face a maximum 15-year prison term if convicted, said State Attorney Harry Shorstein in a Monday news conference.

"The facts in this case . . . are totally consistent with a charge of manslaughter," which is defined as unlawfully causing the death of another person, he said.

The outcome, he said, was "the unbelievably tragic loss, potentially of two children . . . We must make it clear that certain things are totally unacceptable."

Shorstein said the Baez family was "satisfied and pleased" with the decision to upgrade the charges against White.

"They are putting their trust in the system," he said.

White was transferred Monday from the juvenile detention center, where he had been held since the attack, to the Clay County jail.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Ridgeview family returned to school Monday to be told of his death.

"Last week, we were hoping for the best and bracing for the worst. This morning, we have had to deal with the worst: losing a student at the hands of another student," said principal Toni McCabe. "The mood is a somber one [but] teaching and learning is going on."

McCabe, rather than making a schoolwide announcement, had all the teachers talk with their students about the loss, said Darlene Mahla, the Clay County school district's spokeswoman.

Also, a district crisis intervention team of counselors was on hand to help students who were particularly upset. But early Monday, few students were using their services, she said.

"I think they have had time to cope with it," Mahla said.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. today at St. Luke's Catholic Church, 1606 Blanding Blvd. at Old Jennings Road in Middleburg.

David, who suffered extensive brain injuries in the attack, died about 9 p.m. Saturday at Shands Jacksonville. Family members had maintained a round-the-clock vigil at his bedside in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, but he never regained consciousness.

"His heart just gave up, but he fought all the way to the end," his father, Edgar Baez, told the Times-Union on Sunday.

Shorstein, at his news conference, read a statement from the family that said, "We want to make it clear that we did not cut off life support from David. We prayed and hoped until the very last minute that he would survive."

They also thanked the community, Ridgeview High, neighbors and churches for their support. …

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