FARIBAULT -- The mother of a Faribault man who was beaten to death on a street in Colorado Springs, Colo., finds the death difficult to understand.

``What's hard to comprehend is 25 to 30 people standing around and letting this happen without someone stepping in,'' Jean Schmidtke said.

Four high school students were being held for investigation of murder in the Saturday night beating death of Spec. Layne Thomas Schmidtke, 24. Police said more arrests were expected.

``He could have been killed in an accident while on maneuvers. That happens. Layne had talked about that. I could handle that better than my son being brutally murdered on the street,'' his mother said.

Schmidtke and a fellow soldier, Joseph Daniel Reeves, were walking on a sidewalk blocked by about 25 young people, police said. The pair walked into the street to pass and the teen-agers taunted them, saying it was their turf, police said.

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Schmidtke and Reeves exchanged words with the crowd and a fight ensued, according to police.

As many as eight people began kicking and stomping Schmidtke for six to 10 minutes as the two dozen others watched, police said. One youth repeatedly kicked Schmidtke's head as he lay unconscious, a police affidavit said. He died early Sunday in a hospital of brain injuries.

``Layne was raised that it was more manly to walk away from a fight than to stay and fight. All our children were,'' his mother said.

``I'd be much more at peace if he'd died in a car accident,'' she said Tuesday after returning from Colorado Springs. She visited the site of her son's death and talked with police and the friend who was with him.

Reeves, the friend, suffered minor injuries in the attack. He initially fled before he realized Schmidtke wasn't with him and returned to try and help, but was beaten, police said.

Schmidtke was to have been discharged in a few months and planned on returning to Faribault, working with his father in his drywall business and being reunited with his wife and their twin 1-year-old daughters, his mother said. AP-DS-09-26-91 0209EDT