Ohio Man Killed By Teens Throwing Sandbags Off Overpass Was Going To Propose To His Girlfriend

by People.com

A 22-year-old Michigan man who was killed earlier this month in Ohio by a sandbag thrown from a highway overpass — allegedly by a group of teenagers — had plans to propose to his girlfriend on his birthday, a friend of the family says.

“It would have been a surprise to her, and only his mother knew of his plan,” Lillian Diallo tells PEOPLE of Marquise Byrd. “He was robbed of being a married father, a husband taking care of his family and living the dream that was almost in his grasp.

“In his mind, that would have been the greatest gift he could have got on his birthday.”

Byrd, the father of a 2-year-old son, was a passenger in a car driven by his friend when, authorities allege, four teen boys threw a sandbag and rocks onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Toledo on Dec. 19.

Courtesy of Lillian Diallo

The sandbag crashed through the window of the car, hitting Byrd in the head.

“He was just in a car riding like any of us, not bothering anybody, and the sandbag came down and came down on his side of the car,” Diallo says. “It was strong enough to collapse the frame of the car — so think what it did to the human body. He died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck. ”

Byrd, who was traveling to meet relatives, was taken to a local hospital where he died of his injuries on Dec. 22.

The teen suspects — three 14-year-olds and a 13-year-old — were arraigned Wednesday on charges of murder and vehicular vandalism in connection with Byrd’s death.

All four boys denied the charges in juvenile court, Lori Olender, deputy chief of the juvenile division of Ohio’s Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office tells PEOPLE.

The four teens remain in juvenile custody. PEOPLE does not identify minors charged with crimes who are not being prosecuted as adults.

Marquise Byrd (right)

Marquise Byrd (right)
Courtesy of Lillian Diallo

“It is so tragic for everyone involved,” Olender says. “Whatever they end up sentence-wise, they will remember it for the rest of their lives. It is going to come back to them forever. And the young age of the victim, it is just awful for everyone.”

Attorney Denise Stollings, who represented the teens at their arraignment, says they are terrified and very upset about what happened.

“They just feel awful that there is this situation affecting this family and their family,” she tells PEOPLE. “It is just a sad, sad, horrible situation. ”

If found guilty of the charges, the four suspects could spend anywhere from a year or up to the age of 21 in a juvenile facility, Stollings says. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Diallo says the family is still reeling over the death of Byrd, who she said had “such a happiness about himself. He could be sometimes silly, sometimes serous. Never mean spirited.”

Diallo was with the family on Friday, she says, and saw that Byrd’s son was looking for his father in the crowd of people.

“He was trying to look past everyone to see where his dad was,” she says. “How do you tell the 2-year-old he will never see his dad again? Now there is a child that has to be raised without a father and a wife who will never be a wife.”

Diallo says Byrd had plans to celebrate Christmas with his family, including his brother, who was on leave from his Army deployment in the Middle East.

“This was supposed to be a celebratory time,” she says.

Marquise Byrd

Marquise Byrd
Facebook

Toledo police first received a 911 call from the driver of the vehicle Byrd was in around 10:10 p.m. on Dec. 19.

“She said something had crashed her window and her passenger had been struck and was not breathing,” Toledo police Capt. Joe Heffernan tells PEOPLE. “She was able to get off to the side of the road and called 911 and was doing CPR on Mr. Byrd.”

Earlier that evening police had received a call “of some other things like rocks being thrown over the overpass,” Heffernan says. As a result, after the car Byrd was a passenger in was struck, officers went straight to the area where the earlier call came in and found the four teens.

“They were by the overpass,” Heffernan says. “The officers detained the four juveniles and they were taken down for questioning, and after consultation with a prosecutor they were charged that night.”

“It is hard for the people to understand a young man lost his life in such a needless way,” he adds. “The senselessness of it all.”

Byrd’s funeral is scheduled for Jan. 6. He will be buried in the Detroit area. Read More

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