Denny Staubs had just returned home Thursday from taking a flower to his dead friend's mother. He wandered into the kitchen, fell to the floor and reportedly told his mother that he had fired the shot that killed Jared Sala in the woods near their Pasadena homes.
Anne Arundel County police think the Chesapeake High School sophomore's death Wednesday was an accident, department spokesman Lt. Jeff Kelly said yesterday.
Denny, 15, originally told police he had left Sala in a wooded ravine where they were trying to figure out how Staubs should tell his parents he had been suspended from school earlier that day for talking back to his teachers. He said he sprinted back when he heard the gun go off and found his friend gasping for air and bleeding.
Police questioned the youth Thursday night and for six to seven hours yesterday before making their preliminary decision. They are waiting for the medical examiner's report and results from fingerprint tests on the gun before making a final ruling.
"Denny and Jared were best friends," said Dave Petrisko, Jar- ed's stepfather. "He didn't mean to do that. We know that."
Police said they were unsure where Jared got the gun or why he had it.
"He probably had it because some of his friends were giving him a hard time," Denny said in an interview Thursday.
"They should have never been in a predicament where they felt they needed a gun," said Cindy Staubs, Denny's mother. "Their own protection ended up hurting them."
Students at Chesapeake High School observed 15 seconds of silence in Jared's honor yesterday.
After school, students crowded around the bouquets of flowers, the handwritten notes and the stuffed lion and teddy bear that have been left at the leafy ravine where he died.
"This is unheard of around here," said Ron Bees, a 15-year-old friend of Jared, who also was 15.
"It is really scary, it is, like, peaceful and calm, not a lot of shootings around here," said Steven Evans, 11, a sixth-grader at Chesapeake Middle School who left a sign on wide-ruled notebook paper reading "R.I.P."
"Jared was kind of big compared to me, but to me he was, like, a hero," Steven said.
By all accounts, Denny and Jared had been inseparable since February. Jared answered the Staubs' family phone. They dressed up in matching pants, T-shirts and sneakers for Halloween. They told everyone they were going as twins.
They spent most afternoons together playing basketball, eating at McDonald's and going to the movies.
When Denny broke his leg, Jared cared for him while his mother worked.
"These boys loved each other and would have done anything to protect each other. They would have died for one another, and unfortunately one of them did," said a tearful Cindy Staubs.
"Now, Denny has to carry that with him for the rest of his life."
Pub Date: 11/14/98