Crime

Ex-Henry Clay football star shot to death

A former standout football player at Henry Clay High School was found shot to death Tuesday afternoon.

While police declined to discuss details, Jermaine Birch's mother said Tuesday evening that her son might have died in a dispute over a former girlfriend.

The homicide occurred at 623 Georgetown Street near Glen Arvin Avenue and Legacy Crossing. Police responded to a call about someone trying to break into a home around 1:43 p.m. Tuesday and arrived to find Birch, 22, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, according to police and coroner's reports. He was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Frankfort.

No one has been charged with murder, but police took Deondrae Darnel Fishback, 20, into custody at the home. Fishback, a 2008 graduate of Henry Clay High School, has been charged with being a felon in possession of a handgun and trafficking within 1,000 yards of a school.

Police have not released any details on Fishback's arrest.

Commander Ron Compton said earlier Tuesday that he did not know what led to the shooting.

Birch's mother, Cheryl Birch, said her son told her last week that he and his girlfriend were breaking up.

She said she was told the ex-girlfriend called her son at work Tuesday and said that she was pregnant, but that the child was not his. Jermaine Birch then left work angry and headed for the home on Georgetown Street where the young woman was staying, Cheryl Birch said.

On Tuesday night, a crowd of friends and family had gathered inside Cheryl Birch's apartment on Second Street where Jermaine Birch lived with her. They offered hugs and shared a meal.

Cheryl Birch said her son, who worked for a moving company, was "bubbly" and "loved to joke and kid."

"Even though he was big in size, he was gentle," she said.

Birch, known among friends as "Big Hungry," graduated from Henry Clay in 2006.

"I loved to see him play football," Cheryl Birch said. "He just had that natural ability."

Weighing in at about 300 pounds, he was built for the sport and started playing when he was 7 years old, she said.

Although he excelled in the sport in high school, he did not go on to college.

"He didn't think that he was good enough" academically, she said. "It would hurt me to watch football."

Eugenia Howard, who said her son had been friends with Birch for about 10 years, said Birch's death was unbelievable.

"He's just too good; this child is too good," she said. "He was like a golden child."

University of Kentucky wide receiver Aaron Boyd, a sophomore, posted a tribute to Birch on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Boyd graduated from Henry Clay in 2008 and played football with Birch there for two years.

He said in an interview that when he last saw Birch a few weeks ago, "he was trying to get his life on track. ... He was telling me to stay out of trouble. He wanted me to be successful."

Clark Jeter, a Western Kentucky University football player who was a teammate of Birch's for three years at Henry Clay, said he met him in a recreational basketball league when he was 6 years old, and their friendship grew through the years.

"That kid had my back in anything we did," he said. "He was as stand-up a guy as there could be, and he would do anything for anybody that was close to him."

O.L. Hughes & Sons Mortuary is in charge of funeral arrangements.

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