A person who lit up the room with his personality, could bring a smile to everyone’s face and would give the shirt off his back expecting nothing in return. It’s how friends of 23-year-old Alexander Cherp - who went by Alex or Cherp - want their friend to be remembered.
Cherp died in the hospital after he was found with upper body trauma near his vehicle in Greenbrook Park shortly after midnight Sunday. An on-duty security guard found him in the park, just a block from Nolan Middle School in Lakewood Ranch.
Dave Bristow, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said they have been working on the investigation into Cherp’s death all weekend, and are “making good progress.” However, he added, there is nothing they can make public.
The attack is not believed to be random, and Bristow said Monday Cherp likely knew of the person who committed the crime.
But before his life was cut short, friends said Cherp was studying history and always smiling.
After just knowing him for a few short months through the gym they worked out in, Katelyn Thixton said she was talking to Cherp the night of the incident.
The two were talking over Snapchat, a photo-messaging app. Thixton said she received a selfie from him around 10:30 Sunday night. It was of him, smiling. That was the last she heard from Cherp.
But she said in the short time she knew him, he was a bright, smiling and fun person who was into cars and driving.
Jake Simpson, a friend of Cherp’s since high school, described him as a “great guy.”
Simpson, Cherp, and four others -- including Mason Fox and his brother -- were inseparable. Simpson said he met Cherp his sophomore year of high school, sometime around 2008, and they hit it off, becoming fast friends. He said Cherp was a student at Riverview High School.
“We had plans to start businesses in the future... He was interested in history,” Simpson said of his friend. “I remember we used to talk, he wanted to study law, be a lawyer and use that toward a real-life business application.”
Mason Fox, 21, was in the group of close-knit friends with his older brother, Simpson and Cherp. He said Cherp took him under his wing when he entered high school and treated him like a little brother.
“Alex, he was someone that always had a smile on his face no matter what the situation was,” Mason Fox said. “He was someone I could always go to, one of the most trustworthy people.”
Nothing could come between the group of friends who were always having fun, Fox said.
Fox’s mother, Tami Fox, said she knew the group of young men, including Cherp, well, and hosted them regularly at her home.
“My son is Alex’s best friend. I had the distinct honor of being ‘Mama Fox’ to them. It was just the most incredible group of boys, they’ve been friends for so long, for many years,” Tami Fox said through tears.
She described Cherp as “the sweetest boy” who didn’t do drugs or have drinking binges. Tami Fox said Cherp was someone she was proud to have him in her sons’ lives.
“He was an angel from heaven, he really was,” Tami Fox said. “When he walked into a room your heart was just so happy because he was there.”
Cherp’s death was a shock to his friends, something Mason Fox said he never expected or saw coming. Fox just saw him over the Christmas break and said he seemed “normal.”
Simpson found out his friend passed away Sunday afternoon. He said people were sending him news articles and “blowing up” his phone. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, and was skeptical, so he called Cherp’s mom.
“When I talked to her it became loudly adamant that my suspensions and fears were confirmed. That was a tough phone call,” Simpson said. “It ended up just being crushing.”
“There’s no one word it’s a myriad, but constantly going through waves of anger, sadness, grief and guilt,” Simpson said.