Originally created 03/04/03

Friends mourn death of Lakeside student



The night before he died, Brandon Layton did one of the things he did best: spin his rifle with the Lakeside High School JROTC Drill Team.

This weekend, the nine remaining members of the drill team will honor him with a "missing man" formation when they perform in a regional competition at Evans High School.

"He was a key member of the team," said Lt. Col. Gary Engen, a senior Army instructor at Lakeside High. "He was the co-leader and respected as having the most drill and ceremonies talent."

Classmates and family members struggled with reality Monday, dealing with the death of the Lakeside senior. Mr. Layton, 18, described as a good student, an artist, a musician, an athlete, a leader and a role model, died in a traffic accident late Friday night, becoming the Columbia County school system's fourth fatality this year.

The accident took place on River Watch Parkway near Furys Ferry Road at about 10 p.m. when the driver of a Toyota Camry heading the wrong way in the eastbound lane crashed head-on into Mr. Layton's Toyota MR2. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 11 p.m., Richmond County Deputy Coroner Grover Tuten said.

Richmond County authorities said Monday they are waiting for the other driver to be released from the hospital before charging him in Mr. Layton's death. Mohammad Ali Behzadian, 56, will be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, said sheriff's Maj. Richard Weaver.

Mr. Behzadian was in fair condition Monday at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, officials said.

On Monday, a makeshift memorial - a blue cross, a bottle of Hawaiian Punch and other effects - was erected near the site of the accident. The spot became a destination for some students and family members.

"I came here to say 'goodbye,"' said Lakeside High junior Anthony Edwards, who sat beside Mr. Layton in JROTC class. "I wanted to remember the good times we had. He did touch a lot of people."

At Lakeside, officials set up a memory book in the school's media center, and counselors were called in.

"He was just a good kid who held down a job to make the payments on his car, was involved with school and ROTC and had a musical interest in the band," Principal Jeff Carney said. "Unfortunately, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today in the chapel of Thomas Poteet and Son, with the Rev. Phillip Williams officiating. Honorary pallbearers are the JROTC and the senior class of Lakeside High School. Burial will be at 3 p.m. at Lawnwood Memorial Park in Covington, Ga.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.