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Police to watch videotape for clues surrounding student's death

Authorities have visited house eight times since 2001

AUBURN - Investigators have recovered a videotape filmed during an after-prom party at which an honor student died Sunday.

The incident marked at least the eighth time since 2001 that sheriff's deputies had been called to 586 Quail Trail Road.

Deputies found Winder-Barrow High School senior Leland Lamar Martin dead inside the Auburn house at 12:15 p.m. Sunday. Martin was an honors student who had won a full scholarship to Young Harris College.

Many of the underage students who attended the party were drinking, according to Maj. Murray Kogod, Barrow County's chief deputy. As the party went into the late hours, someone videotaped the celebration. Investigators expect to gain clues as to what actually happened inside the home from the tape.

"We'll see if it gives us information on adults being in the house," Kogod said. "Initially, the homeowner said they were not there and they did not know the party was going on. When I got there, at about 1:30, they were there."

An examination of the videotape could lead to criminal charges or could exonerate party goers and the homeowners, Christopher and Barbara Michael.

"Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, disorderly house, things like that," Kogod said. "It depends on whether or not we find anything."

Some time during the party, Martin got into an altercation with another person. However, an autopsy revealed his body showed no signs of trauma, nor did he die as a result of physical injury, according to David Crosby, Barrow County's coroner. The videotape did not record an alleged fight that Martin was said to have been involved in, Kogod said. Investigators await the results of Martin's toxicology examination.

Barbara Michael allowed investigators to search the home Sunday.

Wednesday, Michael said her attorney had advised her not to comment on the incident.

A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said the music from the party kept her family awake.

"It was the heavy metal, screaming kind of music," she said. "My son calls it death rock. When my husband left for work at 4 a.m., the music was still loud, there were cars all up and down the street and beer cans in our driveway."

The neighbor said she considered calling the police. Now she wishes she had.

"It weighs heavy on my conscience that I didn't call," she said.

The residence has a long history with the Barrow County Sheriff's Department. Incident reports date back to 2001 and include domestic disputes, an illegally parked vehicle and disputes with neighbors. On Feb. 17, police broke up a party at the home and cited two men for being under the influence of alcohol, under the age of 21, police reports state. That party also disturbed neighbors.

"The only activity that bothered us was teenagers having a wild party and constant traffic up and down the street at midnight," said neighbor Carolyn Tribble.

Martin was not the first child to lose his life on the property. On May 10, 2001, the Michael's daughter Kahree, age 8, passed away while driving a four-wheeler in the yard. Police reports state that the four-wheeler flipped over while Kahree's brother, age 4 at the time, rode behind her.

On Dec. 20, Michael told deputies that her roommate and ex-boyfriend "struck her juvenile son." A warrant for simple battery was taken out on William Highfield, according to police reports.

On Oct. 26, Barbara Michael called police to file a stolen dog report. She told the deputy that she suspected the dog was stolen by a neighbor she had been feuding with, police reports state.

In July, a neighbor told deputies that Michael's dogs had killed some of their goats.