18-year-old dies at after-prom party

WINDER, Ga. - Police aren't sure whether alcohol, a fight or something else caused an 18-year-old high school honors student to die Sunday during an after-prom party.


Leland Martin, described by friends and school staff as a caring and funny student, attended the Winder-Barrow High School prom at the Classic Center in Athens on Saturday. The prom ended about 11:30 p.m., and Mr. Martin attended an after-prom party that included alcohol at a house near Auburn, Ga.

Mr. Martin - described by one student as "sweet as sugar" - was involved in a fight with at least one person. Mr. Martin later was found dead at the house, and police were called at about 12:15 p.m. Sunday.

Barrow County sheriff's Maj. Murray Kogod said investigators are treating the case as a death investigation, and nobody has been charged in connection with Mr. Martin's death.

His body has been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab for an autopsy.

"Until we know (the) cause of death, we don't know whether a criminal act has taken place," Maj. Kogod said.

Anywhere from 20 to 40 people were at the after-prom party at a house on Quail Trail near Auburn.

Investigators weren't sure who bought the alcohol, and according to one student, there was at least one adult in the house at the time of the party.

"We're talking with all the students that were there, getting information from anybody who has any kind of information as to what took place during the event, and once we have the information back from the autopsy, we'll be able to proceed with identifying, if there is a criminal act, any possible suspects, that type of thing," Maj. Kogod said.

Investigators believe Mr. Martin was drinking at the party but are waiting for autopsy results to conclude whether he was and how much.

On Monday, officials brought in extra counselors, and high school Principal Rob Johnson described the day as "somber" and "reflective."

"Kids have come up and they've shared stories about Leland," Mr. Johnson said. "Leland had a great sense of humor. He was really funny. So, a lot of the students would tell me stories of something funny he had said and how he'd made them laugh. Because they were obviously trying to get through this period of time, too.

"He also had a huge heart, (was a) very kind and loving young man who would do anything for anybody," Mr. Johnson added. "That's why everybody really liked Leland, because he was a very lovable young man, but also a very humorous fellow."

Senior Michael Clark described Mr. Martin as a nice guy, and he was shocked to learn about his death.

"He really wasn't the partier type," Mr. Clark said. "When I found out about it, I was pretty shocked. That's all I could think about yesterday. ... He didn't seem like the kind of guy that would be at that kind of party."