SEFFNER - Sean S. Ellenberger was a 39-year-old teacher at a private school in St. Petersburg.
Titus Leon Hill was a 19-year-old Seffner resident who was preparing to go to college.
Their paths crossed and their lives ended in the span of a few hours, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said. About midnight Friday, Hill and at least one other suspect – one of them armed with a handgun - tried to rob Ellenberger and another man outside a Seffner home, deputies said.
Ellenberger, who was licensed to carry a concealed gun, pulled a pistol of his own, deputies said.
Shots were fired, and in a brief gunbattle both Ellenberger and Hill were mortally wounded, deputies said.
Late Saturday, deputies arrested Michael Balkaran, 17, of 6298 Wildwood Oak Drive in Tampa. He was located at a friend's house in Tampa, where he was placed under arrest and charged with first-degree murder in connection with Ellenberger's death, second-degree murder for Hill's death which occurred during a felony, armed robbery and attempted armed robbery. He is being held at the Juvenile Assessment Center.
Deputies say they are looking for another suspect, and the investigation is continuing.
Ellenberger's cell phone, wallet, radar detector and car stereo were taken during the incident, deputies said.
"I feel like it's such a senseless thing for this to happen," said Mitzi Mess, the mother of Ellenberger's best friend, Bob Mess.
"This is such a tragedy. He was a nice guy."
The attempted robbery and bloodshed took place a few blocks from Hill's home.
Ellenberger and Bob Mess were installing a stereo in a Jeep Cherokee that was parked outside of Mess' home at 5210 Orange Ave. when Hill and at least one other suspect approached, deputies said. Ellenberger and Mess and attempted to steal items from them before the gunfire rang out, deputies said.
Hill, who lived at 11902 Mango Groves Blvd., and at least one other suspect fled in a vehicle, deputies said. At some point a friend transported Hill to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Ellenberger died about 3 a.m. today at Tampa General Hospital.
Neighbors described hearing the gunshots late Friday night but didn't see the shooting. They generally said the neighborhood is peaceful.
"It's quiet here, everybody keeps to themselves," said Darryl Lockett, who lives nearby and heard what sounded like firecrackers around the time of the shooting.
In a brief interview, Ellenberger's mother, Anne Langford of St. Petersburg, said her son taught at Broach St. Petersburg, a private school for children with learning disabilities. It is owned by a Nashville company called Educational Services of America.
Mitzi Mess, who lives in Seminole, said her son and Ellenberger had become friends some 20 years ago through their church and Ellenberger visited her son nearly every Friday night. Mess is a talented handyman, so on Friday night Ellenberger traveled to Seffner for help with his stereo. Mess, who works in information technology at University Community Hospital, was not injured in the attempted robbery.
Mitzi Mess said Ellenberger had just received a master's degree online from Boise State University. Her son and Ellenberger traveled to Boise, Idaho a few months ago so Ellenberger could go through graduation ceremonies, she said.
Ellenberger had a concealed gun permit, state records show.
"Sean has always had a fascination with guns," Mess said. "That has always worried me."
Neighbors who lived near Ellenberger in the Shore Acres area of St. Petersburg said he grew up in the neighborhood and was living with and taking care of his mother. They declined further comment.
Hill's mother didn't want to comment, said John Green, who said he was Hill's stepfather. Green said he and Hill's mother had little information about the alleged robbery attempt. He said his stepson had no history of trouble and was getting ready to take a test to enter college. The family had just moved to their Seffner neighborhood three or four months ago from Riverview.
"It's very tough because we don't know what happened," Green said.