PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia teen track star who confronted two would-be burglars trying to break into his family’s home was shot and killed earlier this month, dying on the day he was set to head to Penn State on an athletic scholarship.
Kristian Marche, 18, died Aug. 14, the day after the shooting. Two younger teens, Taron Small, 16, and Byron Vinson, 15, were both arrested Wednesday and charged with murder, conspiracy and weapons-related violations. Charged as adults, both Small and Vinson are being held at Riverside Correctional Facility, jail records show.
Philadelphia police Lt. Norman Davenport said in an initial news conference that police officers called to the scene outside the teen's home the night of Aug. 13 found Marche, a recent graduate of Imhotep Institute Charter High School, with a gunshot wound to the head. He was taken to Einstein Medical Center, where he died the following evening.
“Kristian clearly was an exceptionally talented young man with a very promising future that was violently cut short,” Davenport said.
Davenport and homicide investigators pleaded for information in the slaying, going so far as to urge parents to sit down with their children and ask them if they knew anything about who might have shot the rising athlete.
“This is a job that needs to be solved, and somehow the message needs to be communicated that this violence is unacceptable,” the police lieutenant said.
After many tips and leads and heavy cooperation from the community, Vinson and Small were developed as suspects in the homicide, which police officials said was captured on surveillance video from Marche’s neighborhood.
Marche was home with his mother when he heard a noise out back and went outside to investigate it, Davenport said during a Wednesday news conference streamed live by WPVI-TV. Marche reportedly saw at least one suspect jump from a second-level deck behind the house.
After confronting the suspects, Marche went back inside, Davenport said. A short time later, he went out again and was seen on surveillance video walking on a neighbor’s driveway, with Vinson in front of him and Small behind him, the lieutenant said.
It is at that point that Small pulled out a gun and unsuspectedly shot Marche in the back of the head, he said.
"There was not a struggle. There was not a fight," Davenport said. "This was clearly a case of murder."
Davenport said the three teens were acquainted before the attempted-break in, but their relationship was not clear.
The lieutenant praised the community cooperation in the case.
"We actually had residents calling in to homicide and inviting us into their homes to view any potential video that they may have had," Davenport said. "Remember, when this homicide occurred last week, we really had no leads.
“It was through those phone calls and surveillance video that we have been able to recover video that was critical in this investigation and enabled us to be able to arrive at a point today of being able to make an arrest.”
Onward State, Penn State's student blog, reported that Marche also played football during high school and received offers to play for Morgan State University in Baltimore and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
He chose instead to go to Penn State as a sprinter on the university’s track and field team. He was to be one of 35 incoming track athletes.
Sandy Barbour, Penn State’s athletic director, issued a statement following Marche’s death.
"Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Kristian Marche's family, friends, and teammates," Barbour said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy; another young person taken from his loved ones far too early. Our thoughts are with Kristian's family and friends; we will do what we can to support them and our track and field students and staff during this very difficult time."
The teen’s death hit those who knew him hard. Diamond Woolford, Marche’s personal coach, said Marche was trying to get out of petty arguments and “beefs” before heading into the next chapter of his life.
"You got a kid that was actually trying to remove himself from this negativity, and they seemed to want to bring him back into it," Woolford told the Inquirer. "He definitely was a very smart kid, and had just so much potential in this sport."
On Facebook, Woolford said he was glad that Marche reached out to him as a coach over the last year of his life.
"You had the gift of turning a complete stranger into a friend within the matter of seconds," Woolford wrote. "You believed in me and how I could help you get to that next level, and within this short time you (were) not just my athlete but my little brother."
"Nobody expected this," friend Isaiah Leonard, 18, told the Inquirer about Marche's killing. "A lot of people were just recently talking to him. Everybody knew he was about to go to school. When it happened, everybody was just shocked. They didn't know what to say."
Imhotep athletic director Andre Noble told the newspaper that Marche was always respectful during his years on the track and football teams. The school was offering counseling services to students and teachers who knew Marche and were planning ways to keep the teen's spirit alive at his alma mater.
“It’s sad to lose one of our sons,” Noble said.
Cox Media Group