CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Friends have set up a memorial for 49-year-old Jeffrey M. Chapman on Mandalay Avenue in North Beach, where police said an accused killer beat him to death with a tire iron in a random attack.
In a Facebook post shared by the Clearwater Beach Association, Chapman’s daughter said her father was wise with a humble and giving soul.
She also described her dad as an outdoorsman and a “true hippie by heart.”
“My dad was a Maine man by heart but a piece of him loved the beach and the town of Clearwater,” she wrote.
“This wasn’t his time and it’s devastating to have him taken this way,” the Facebook post said.
Chapman split his time between Clearwater Beach and the state of Maine where he ran a financial group. His daughter said he enjoyed walking on the beach, riding his bike to feel the warm ocean breeze and taking as many photos of the sunset as he could.
As friends and family remember the father of two, the court proceedings to hold the accused killer are just beginning.
Jermaine Bennett, 26, made his first appearance before a Pinellas County Judge on Wednesday. He’s being held in jail with no bond.
Police are still trying to find and arrest the driver of the car Bennett was in at the time of the murder.
According to a warrant obtained by News Channel 8, at first, Bennett denied any involvement in the attack. But when Clearwater Police detectives told him there was home security video showing him hitting Chapman in the head with a tire iron, he confessed to the crime.
News Channel 8 has learned St. Petersburg police are trying to find out if there’s a link between Chapman’s murder and a similar crime that happened just one day earlier.
“We had a gentleman who was out walking and was attacked and he was beaten and so again, we are just making sure we can tie those two things together, but right now we don’t have any information that can link those two,” St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway said.
Chapman’s friends are planning a celebration of his life next Thursday at a Clearwater bar where he was a frequent patron.