Saturday, April 17, 2010
Athletes' paths meet in tragedy -- Former football star charged in death
One excelled on the football field while the other was a lacrosse star.
While they didn't meet each other on the playing field, their lives have become intertwined after a tragic incident at a North Kildonan bar.
Now high school lacrosse star Kelly Clay is dead, while former University of Manitoba Bison and Winnipeg Rifles football player Jeremy Botelho has been arrested and is expected to face a charge of manslaughter.
The death has left family and friends of both men in shock.
"He (Clay) had lots of friends and lots of the staff worked with him," said Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O'Leary about the Grade 12 West Kildonan Collegiate student on Friday.
"It's a real loss and they're feeling it."
By late afternoon, more than 1,100 people had signed up to a Facebook memorial site to Clay.
"I'm very saddened for everyone," said Bison football head coach Brian Dobie on Friday. Dobie coached Botelho last season, during which the rookie set a Canadian Interuniversity Sport record when he returned a missed field goal into a 129-yard touchdown.
"Somebody died here. It's just awful."
Clay, 18, died of his injuries after being rushed to hospital early Thursday.
Witnesses alleged on Thursday that just minutes before the Nor-Villa Motor Hotel bar closed, they saw a man strike Clay once in the head from behind. Clay then fell forward and struck his face on the tile floor.
The suspect was seen running out of the building through the beer vendor to the parking lot.
On Friday, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said Clay died after he was beaten on his upper body after what may have been a verbal dispute. He said there's no suggestion a weapon was involved.
"Obviously, the victim did sustain some other injuries as a result of falling," Michalyshen said.
Police said the two may have been casually acquainted through the victim's family, but police don't believe they knew each other well. The accused was not formally charged as of Friday afternoon, but Michalyshen said he turned himself in to police.
"We're still interviewing and processing that individual," he said, adding police did not name either the victim or accused on Friday out of sensitivity to their families.
Police do not normally release names if the person has not been formally charged.
Michalyshen said fighting can lead to deadly consequences for victims.
"We always hate to see incidents like this," he said.
Michalyshen said the accused and the victim were not known to police.
Anyone with information about the incident or who was at the Nor-Villa Hotel the night of April 14 is asked to call 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786-8477 (TIPS).
Family members of Botelho, 23, declined to comment. Relatives of Clay could not be reached.
Friends of Clay remembered the teenager as someone they loved and will miss.
"Kelly was a great guy who loved sports," one friend told the Free Press. "He was a shy guy if you just met him, but once you got to know Kelly he was a funny, outspoken guy.
"He touched so many people in his short life... It's just another sad thing that drinking has had to take another life so soon."
O'Leary said psychologists and social workers have been sent to help both current collegiate students and students from last year's graduating class.
"He was still taking courses this year with most of his friends in last year's graduation," he said.
"Because he has been part of the school for five years, it has hit staff hard too."
O'Leary said Clay played lacrosse at a provincial level and was part of the school's provincial- title-winning Wolverines team last year.
Clay was even part of a high-school-age team that went to a tournament in Vail, Colo. in 2008. winning the Division II championship. Clay was named to the tournament all-star team in the midfield position.
Botelho himself made headlines across the country last September when the rookie returned a missed Simon Fraser University field goal into a record 129-yard touchdown. He was named the Canada West conference special-teams football athlete of the week for the accomplishment.
"It's so special, it makes you immortal; nobody can beat that," Botelho told the Free Press at the time.
"I always joked about being immortal with my friends when we were kids and now I am, at least in the CIS record books."
Dobie said Botelho resigned from the Bison team back in February. He would not comment on why the first-year student dropped off the team.
But Dobie said Botelho was "a quiet guy who just came out to practise and did his work.
"He was working hard at it like other members of the team."
Dobie said Botelho was previously a star player with the Winnipeg Rifles and before that at Sisler High School.
One young man — an elite provincial lacrosse player — is dead and another, a university football star, is in custody following an assault at a Winnipeg bar early Thursday.
It’s a tragic tale of two men — 18-year-old victim Kelly Clay and 23-year-old suspect Jeremy Botelho — whose promising lives have been cut short or interrupted by an alleged violent act involving a single punch to the head.
A source said Botelho, a former University of Manitoba Bisons receiver and highly touted football prospect who attended the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp last year, surrendered to police Friday and faces a manslaughter charge. The charge indicates there is no evidence of an intent to kill.
The assault occurred inside the Nor-Villa Motor Hotel bar on Henderson Highway about 2 a.m.
Clay, a Grade 12 student at West Kildonan Collegiate, died later that day.
Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said there was an earlier verbal dispute between the victim and suspect in the company of friends.
Michalyshen said the men didn’t know each other well but had a mutual acquaintance, who might be a relative of Clay’s.
Police didn’t comment on the motive but friends believe it had something to do with an argument involving at least one young woman and others.
Bar owner Gilbert Gauthier said Clay was standing near the dance floor when an older, larger male sucker-punched him from behind, striking him on the side of the head.
Clay fell and struck his head on the tiled floor, Gauthier said.
Gauthier said Clay and the suspect arrived at about the same time and was unaware of an earlier incident.
Friends said Clay was energetic and loved to socialize with friends, and was a talented athlete who excelled at lacrosse.
“He was always the life of the party,” said Brittany Nikkel. “He was a good kid.”
John Antonius said Clay had a competitive yet laid-back nature and was eager to find work after high school, where he got along with his teachers.
“One thing that really stood out about Kelly was he could pretty much make everyone laugh with his stories,” Antonius said.
Friends shared their grief on Facebook, where they posted photos of Clay smiling, goofing off or posing, and in his lacrosse gear at a tournament in Colorado in 2008, where he was named to an all-star team.
Despite an all-star selection in his rookie season in 2009, Botelho left the Bisons on his own accord in February, coach Brian Dobie said.
On Sept. 11, 2009, Botelho set a CIS record when he returned a missed field goal 129 yards for a Bisons touchdown during a road loss to Simon Fraser. He studied kinesiology and recreation management at the U of M, according to a player profile.
Botelho formerly played for the Winnipeg Rifles and attended Bombers training camp in 2009. Botelho also practised with the CFL team the previous year.
Clay is Winnipeg’s third homicide victim of 2010.
I feel sympathy towards the young man being charged with this offence. He was a former football player and an overall good person. He made a terrible mistake, which was likely fueled by alcohol. He will regret this for the rest of his life.
I found that both of these articles are biased in that they focus too much space on the victim and his good character, in order for the public to sympathize more with the victims' family than the accused's family. Also, if the man killed was Aboriginal or not of good character, I can guarantee you, it would NOT receive this much coverage or an attempt to get readers to sympathize with the victim. I think that more space needs to be dedicated to the accused and his life background and good character as well in order to be proportionate.