Neighbors affectionately referred to Gene Emory Dacus as “Mr. Gene.” He was an 85-year-old military vet who served during the Korean War. He was one of those guys whom everyone in the neighborhood loved. A neighbor said that “he was very sweet to all of the children,” and that “he kept our neighborhood clean.” According to one of his three sons, Mr. Gene “was the most kindhearted gentleman you ever met. He never met a stranger, and he helped anybody he could.”
But one person decided to take this man’s life for no apparent reason. Eighteen-year-old Thomas Sims – who was arrested earlier this year in connection with a violent, armed carjacking – struck the elderly man during an argument. He then doused him with gasoline and set him on fire, in an apparent attempt to cover up the assault.
Police say that the murderer’s motive had to do with the theft of Mr. Gene’s truck. He had already had his car stolen just a few weeks prior, and he was worried about his 1999 Dodge Ram pickup getting stolen as well. His neighbors advised him to move his truck into the yard and close to the house, which he did.
According to police, his truck was stolen around the same time he was murdered.
[W]itnesses told police they saw a fire in the yard before seeing a man running down a nearby alley with a red gasoline jug. Police arrested that man a short distance from the crime scene. […]
Neighbor Helen McComb said she was at her nearby home late Tuesday night when she heard a commotion outside and went on her front porch to investigate. “I could see something burning,” she said. “Then a guy ran out yelling somebody had burned up Mr. Gene.”
McComb said she ran to the crime scene and saw Dacus. “I lost it,” she said. “He’s been here forever. People here loved Mr. Gene.”
Police have Sims in custody. He apparently confessed to the crime, but authorities have not been able to identify out a clear motive. A second suspect is on the run.
“The only thing I can hope to God for is that he was dead before he was burned,” Mr. Gene’s son Gary said. “You expect your parents to die before you, but to die a horrendous death like that is unimaginable. My father’s death is a tragic loss. The community lost one of its pillars.”
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