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What happened to Curtis?

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Curtis Webb was a better skateboarder than his older brothers. He could do tricks they couldn't do.

"They would just get so mad," said Mary Webb, Curtis' mother.

Later, when 12-year-old Curtis wasn't with them, they would try to learn his tricks, she said.

"He lived for that," Larry Webb said about his son's skateboarding. "If he did something and I took his skateboard away for the day, you would think it was the end of the world."

A West Virginia State Police cruiser struck and killed Curtis Webb around midnight on March 22.

Trooper H.D. Stone was driving the vehicle and did not see Curtis, said State Police Sgt. S.F. Van Meter.

An accident report had not been released as of Friday.

The investigation is almost complete, Van Meter said. A copy of the accident report will be given to the prosecutor's office for review, he said.

"The whole thing is just a tragedy. It's a 12-year-old boy. It happened at night. Kids will be kids, the trooper never saw him," Van Meter said. "The young man was riding a skateboard on State Route 16 and it was 12:05 at night and the trooper didn't see him. That's pretty much it."

Stone was given time off to cope with the accident, Van Meter said. He has been very upset since it happened, Van Meter said.

On Friday, Curtis' uncle, Fred Nichols, walked along the stretch of Robert C. Byrd Drive where the 12-year-old was struck and found a piece of the skateboard, smashed in the accident.

"Looks like they did a real thorough job," he said of the police investigation.

Larry Webb was watching college basketball on the couch when Michael, Curtis' 17-year-old brother, came home from his job at the local McDonald's with a friend. Curtis, Michael and his friend were in a bedroom when Larry Webb fell asleep on the couch.

The boys decided to go to Wal-Mart, about a mile down the road on Robert C. Byrd Drive, Larry Webb said.

"They snuck out," Mary Webb said. "We always made sure they were home by 10.

"Curtis went with them. He always was just tagging along. He would do that all the time."

Richard, the Webbs' oldest child, was at home in bed, Mary Webb said.

"The next thing I know, I wake up and Michael has a look on his face I've never seen before," Larry said. "He was in shock."

Michael told his father that a car had struck his youngest son. Larry jumped in his car and sped to the scene.

"I took off flying down there and then I saw him in the road, covered up," Larry said.

State Police told him his son was gone.

"As soon as they said that, they said it was nobody's fault, it was an accident," Larry Webb said. "They all said that, five or six of them. I heard that more down there than any sympathy for my son."

Michael and his friend had been walking along the four-lane Robert C. Byrd Drive and got separated from Curtis. They stopped to let him catch up in the Wal-Mart parking lot. When they doubled back, they saw the ambulance.

"They said the trooper didn't see him, but they know he was on his skateboard," Mary Webb said. "How do they know he was skateboarding if no one saw him? They are assuming he was skateboarding because he had a skateboard."

Curtis was struck about 1,000 feet south of Old Eccles Road, which leads to the Webb residence. The portion of road is poorly lit, but a straight stretch.

Larry Webb said police told him the officer heard a "thump" and had to turn around and come back to see what he hit. Police also said Curtis was hit by the driver's side of the cruiser, but Webb said he didn't understand how that could have happened since his son had no reason to cross the road on his way to Wal-Mart.

The next day Van Meter got in touch with Larry Webb and gave his and the department's sympathies. He also told Webb that the trooper involved in the accident was very upset.

"What that trooper is going through is nothing to what this family is going through," Larry Webb said.

Mary Webb said she didn't believe the State Police should be doing the investigation.

"They need some unbiased person," she said.

The Webbs received a letter in the mail Thursday, signed Concerned Citizens of West Virginia. The letter asks them to get a good attorney and to make sure the investigation is fair.

"Rest assured that the State Troopers do not want to be liable or take responsibility for this crime. They do not want to be accountable and are painting a picture that young Curtis Webb was riding his skateboard in the road," the letter states.

The Webbs plan to get a lawyer to go over the situation with them.

"I feel they are going to protect one of their own," Larry Webb said. "Just from all the stuff they said about it being nobody's fault, nobody's fault."

When asked Thursday if he had any concerns about the State Police investigating an accident involving one of their own, Van Meter said, "No, why would there be?"

There is no one to do investigations of the State Police, said Joe Thornton, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

"The State Police are the investigating agencies for these types of incidents," he said Thursday.

The Webb household is filled with flowers from Curtis' funeral. There are still divots in the living room's hardwood floors from where he was skateboarding indoors.

"He was just the sweetest little kid to be around," said Mary Webb. "He didn't like to go hunting or fishing. He didn't want to hurt anything. If he found a spider in the house he'd want to catch it and put it outside."

The accident has been extremely hard on their son Michael, Mary Webb said. At the funeral, Curtis' uncle Fred and his skateboarding friends were pallbearers.

"It was amazing how many kids and friends showed up," Larry said of his son's funeral. "There was a line 30 minutes before the wake started."

To contact staff writer Gary Harki, use e-mail or call 348-5163.


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