CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – As friends of Jeff Chapman got together Thursday night for a celebration of his life, they are breathing a sigh of relief with the second suspect from his brutal murder behind bars.
Chapman’s friends gathered for a toast on the beach during a picture-perfect sunset.
“He especially loved the sunset and he would take so many pictures of the sunset and send to all of us,” Chapman’s friend Liz Colston said.
Originally from New England, Chapman split his time between his home state of Maine and Clearwater Beach in recent years.
“I would like him to be remembered that he loved this beach, that he loved Clearwater Beach and that he was loved by many people here,” Chapman’s friend Ryan Decker said.
Colston helped organize the tribute that started in Chapman’s beachfront condo building and ended at the Brown Boxer, one of his favorite local bars. She describes her friend as kind, genuine and generous.
“He was a super low-key guy,” she said. “Kind of a behind the scenes guy.”
Just after midnight on Oct. 21, Clearwater police said two men randomly attacked and bludgeoned the 49-year-old with a tire iron while he was riding his bike on Mandalay Avenue.
“The fact that he was riding his bike that evening was just very customary and routine for what he did pretty much every night that he was here,” Colston said.
After the random and brutal murder, the president of the Clearwater Beach Association is trying to reassure his neighbors.
“This community is one of the safest out there,” Samuel Hutkin said. “We’re always looking at getting better in security and things like that and we’re constantly talking to police.”
Just hours before the celebration of life, police shared an update that eases some of the community’s concerns.
“I think there was a great deal of relief this morning when they stated that they caught the second suspect because certainly, that was unsettling to everyone,” Colston said.
Chapman is survived by his two adult children.