BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham police are investigating the homicide of an 85-year-old man who was burned to death.
Police identified the victim as Gene Dacus of Birmingham. He had lived in his community for 50 years.
Thursday afternoon, they announced the arrest of 18-year-old Thomas Sims for capital murder in Dacus' death. Sims is being transferred to the county jail and has no bond.
Officers say they are searching for a second suspect at this time.
Officers responded to the 2300 block of 33rd Avenue North around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
They found the victim's severely burned body in the back yard. The man was pronounced dead on the scene.
A relative discovered Dacus' body.
"My son was the one that found him. The neighbors said that they thought the camper was on fire and then he went around back to see if the camper was on fire and it was Gene," Robert Stanley said.
Neighbors told police they saw a fire in the back yard and saw a black male running down the alley with a red gas jug.
The witnesses followed the suspect and told police where he was. The suspect, Sims, was taken into custody a short distance away.
"They responded immediately. They actually kind of pursued the young man and got us an address. Officers were able to go to that location, speak with his parent and before you knew it, we had the young man in custody," Lt. Sean Edwards said.
Sims lived in the same area as Dacus.
Police say a preliminary investigation shows there was an encounter between the suspect and Dacus at the location. The victim was later doused with gasoline and set on fire, police said.
"This homicide shocks the conscience of any reasonable person. Our hearts are hurting for the victim, his family and our community. The suspect actually confessed to this crime but we have not received any logical justification to explain what happen," Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Chief Roper said.
Stanley said Dacus picked up scrap iron and recycling material. He said he was not a man who just sat around, but was always willing to help others.
"A good man, uncomparable good man. He didn't deserve any of that, whatever it was that they done to him," Stanley said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call BPD.