Property owner unaware of bonfire
Man says he wouldn't have given teens permission to have party
It's something family and friends never wanted to do -- say goodbye to Ryan Ford at just 19 years old.
The last few days have been a nightmare for those who knew the teen after police said he was beaten to death at a bonfire party early Saturday morning.
"He was our best friend. He'd call us up to do anything. It's different without him, totally different," said Alden Kacer, Ford's best friend. "He'd never get in fights, he'd never do anything like that. He was a good kid."
Investigators said the beating happened on a piece of property that's been a known hangout where they've had to deal with problems ranging from underage drinking to truancy.
"Police were not foreign to this. They'd been called their before," said Lt. Rob Schoonover, of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
St. Augustine businessman Phil Genovar owns the land off Old St. Augustine Road, according to property records.
"There are just no words to say how sad I feel for the family," Genovar said Wednesday.
He said he knows some of Ford's family, and hearing about such a tragic thing on his property is heartbreaking.
Genovar said all the activity that's been taking place there has been without his permission. He said he had no idea about a bonfire or any other kind of get-togethers on the property deep in a wooded area.
"None that I know of," Genovar said, adding that he wouldn't allow it even if asked for permission.
Genovar said he signed a "no trespassing" agreement with police more than three years ago after he found out people were breaking into his property. And he's being strict so nothing else bad happens there.
"They have the authorization to arrest anybody found on the property, and I will be glad to prosecute them," Genovar said.
He said big changes are coming, and he's going to do even more to secure the land his family has owned for 111 years using better fences and gates. He's also going to tear down anything that would make people want to come back.
"I never wanted it to happen from the start, but never again," Genovar said.
It's a move Ford's friends and family agree with.
"It doesn't need to be there," Caser said.
Police have charged 25-year-old Christopher Hoffman with manslaughter and 22-year-old Robert Cline with battery causing bodily harm in connection with Ford's death.
A viewing for Ford was to be held from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday at St. Johns Family Funeral Home, 385 State Road 207, St. Augustine. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Anastasia Baptist Church, 1650 State Road A1A South, St. Augustine.
Ford's friends are to hold a memorial bonfire Friday night at the family home. A VyStar Credit Union account was set up for hospital bills and funeral expenses. It's under his name at account No. 7029766009.
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