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Vigil Held Year After Palmdale Boy's Death

November 20, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY

Family and friends of a Palmdale boy killed in a schoolyard fight gathered in a candlelight vigil Sunday at a baseball park to help keep a promise made a year ago--never to let the memory of Stephan Corson die.

The West Valley National Little League field in Encino where the crowd of 30 gathered had already been renamed to honor Stephan, who was killed Nov. 19, 1999, at Juniper Intermediate School in Palmdale.

The location of the ceremony called to mind vivid memories for those who knew the 13-year-old by his athletic prowess and off-the-field politeness.

"He made one of the best catches I ever saw right there at that fence," said Stephan's former coach, Alex Vassil, pointing to the 200-foot marker where the boy's retired No. 16 jersey hangs in center field. "He only hit one home run on this field, and it went right over that wall."

Holding back tears, Ana Richardson described her best friend's son.

"He was a 13-year-old baseball player who managed in a short time to leave a legacy," Richardson said. "He wasn't a hero, he wasn't a saint. But [he managed to leave] behind a field with his name on it."

By most accounts, Stephan started the fatal fight with a schoolmate. Witnesses, however, have given conflicting accounts of what happened after a teacher stepped in to break it up. Some have said both boys kept fighting. Others have said the other boy sucker-punched Stephan after the fight was over. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to prosecute the then-14-year-old boy who fought with Stephan.

Stephan's mother, Mary Corson, has a wrongful death lawsuit pending against the Palmdale School District.

She had moved from Winnetka to Palmdale just before school started last year. She, like others, accepted the long commute to work in exchange for an affordable Antelope Valley mortgage, she said.

"Then, right after I moved, my son was killed," Mary Corson said.

Now the commute has become her therapy, she said before the ceremony.

"Stephan had been on the ride with me, and he named the different hills," she said. "When I look up and see [a peak he named] Simba's Pride, I just think of him smiling down on me."

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