EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about a memorial fund set up to help benefit the victim's daughter has been clarified. Details of the crime have been updated in response to corrections and clarifications issued by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to its initial reports.
His goal was to “stretch his vocals” and to give the show a little variety. So when it was his turn on the Brandon Idol stage in 2010, Sean Michael Buchanan gave it his all with “Jeremy,” a Pearl Jam song meant to rock the stage.
“Pearl Jam is a hard band to sing,” Buchanan said at the time. “I figured if I could pull it off it would be good.”
Buchanan, 26, is being remembered in the Greater Brandon area as the guy with a great voice, strong dance moves and a great passion to make his mark in music. For the many people who worked with him on stage and off, Buchanan’s death hit hard.
According Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Larry McKinnon, Buchanan was found "conscious, but incoherent and confused" in his Toyota Corolla, "behind the Regency Square shopping center, down the embankment in a wooded area,” at around 10:30 p.m. May 30.
Detectives said he had been at the movies, at AMC The Regency 20, and was discovered in his vehicle with trauma to the upper body that was "not consistent with a traffic crash." Deputies responded to the scene, 2429 West Brandon Blvd., to investigate after a passerby had reported seeing the crashed vehicle.
Deputies seek to hear from anyone who saw Buchanan, or his car, on May 30, between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“Sean was a kid who got along with everybody,” said Liz Stewart of Brandon, the choral director at Riverview High School, who worked with Buchanan in 2000, before she taught music at the school.
Buchanan was cast in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Grease,” two shows Stewart directed in 2000 with her own community theater company.
Buchanan, she said, graduated from Riverview in 2003, had been a member of its Vision show choir, then under the direction of Doug Westlake, and performed in many of the Riverview musicals directed by Daron Hawkins, including “Godspell” and “Cabaret."
Stewart said she also taught Buchanan privately after he graduated.
“He loved theater and music,” Stewart said. “He was really involved at Riverview High School. He went to the University of Central Florida for a time and he wanted to transfer to the University of South Florida, so I worked with him about six months to get him prepared for his USF auditions.”
“He loved music,” she said. “He was working to find his way in music and performing arts. He wasn’t sure if he should do music or musical theater. He did a lot of karaoke. Sometimes he would come and do my men’s choir. He judged Riverview Idol one year, so even my kids this year know him."
Stephanie Dye, who grew up in Valrico and attends USF, said she worked with Buchanan in the Musical Showcase production of “Songs for a New World.”
“Sean was just such a high-spirited guy,” she said. “He was always so sweet and considerate and he would do anything for anybody if they needed it. I thought he was a great singer and he was always so interested in pursuing it. He put a lot of effort into it. He was a great performer. He loved to be on stage."
Miguel Oquendo was the show’s director.
“Sean was an awesome kid and he had a lot of talent,” Oquendo said. “He had a lot of passion for the theater and for musical theater big time. He loved it. Even as a college kid he came back and did ‘Songs for a New World’ with all of the high school kids."
When she first met him, Stewart said Buchanan was “a cute kid who loved N’Synch” and had mastered all of the boy band’s dance moves.
Anyone who might have seen the victim or the victim's vehicle on the night of May 30, between 9:50 and 10:30 p.m., is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200.
Meanwhile, a group of friends with ties to both Buchanan and the mother of his child have set up a memorial fund to help support their daughter. "We mean well and we want to help," said Megan Lamasney. "We know how much he loved his daughter and we know he would want us to help her in any way we can."