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Man shot, killed near popular city park

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 12, 2007

St. Petersburg police investigate the homicide scene where Benjamin Philyor's body was found across the street from the Wildwood Recreation Center in St. Petersburg.
[Scott Keeler | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG - A 46-year-old maintenance worker was shot and killed in broad daylight Thursday morning just across the street from the Wildwood Recreation Center.

Benjamin Philyor was gunned down in an alley near 2581 Langdon Ave. S, police said. The shooting took place less than a block from the recreation center, a popular city park and hangout for children and families.

Philyor, an employee at the nonprofit James B. Sanderlin Center, is the city's 24th homicide victim of the year; there were 21 homicides last year. Police are still investigating, and had not made any arrests as of Thursday night.

Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said the shooting may be drug-related. Philyor has a long criminal record that includes several arrests related to cocaine.

"If it could happen over there, then it could happen at Wildwood Recreation Center," said Lillian Lewis, 47, an English teacher at Bethel Community Christian School. Lewis said children from her school regularly go to Wildwood.

Several dozen people, including children, gathered at the recreation center as police investigated Thursday. As she pushed her 4-month-old grandson in a stroller near the center's baseball field, Margaret Griffin, 47, said that she "never really thought that someone could get killed here by the park."

A caller told police that she heard what sounded like three gunshots around 10 a.m. But the caller didn't dial police until walking outside more than an hour later and discovering Philyor's body, police said.

Philyor's friends said that he lived with his father and worked long hours at the recreation center.

He was last seen leaving work around 8 a.m. Thursday.

"He worked really hard," said Elizabeth Chambers, 35, a neighbor.

Betty Johnson, 67, Philyor's mother, said her son had run into trouble as a youth, but changed in recent years.

"I'm feeling what any mother would feel right now," she said. "It hurts."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at or (727) 893-8472.

Anyone with information should call police at (727) 893-7780.

Fast facts

If you can help

Anyone with information is asked to call police at (727) 893-7780.

[Last modified October 11, 2007, 23:30:15]

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