A teenager who lived near an elderly veteran has been charged with murdering him.
Thomas Sims, 18, is accused of capital murder in the killing of Gene Emory Dacus, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran who lived near Sims in Birmingham, Alabama. Sims is already awaiting trial for an armed carjacking earlier in 2016, according to AL.com.
Dacus, known affectionately by neighbors as "Mr. Gene," was found burned to death in his backyard on Aug. 17. Investigators said Sims became the suspect in the murder after the elderly man's truck was stolen. Police are also searching for a second suspect.
"We'd appreciate it if he would go ahead and turn himself in,'' said Lt. Sean Edwards of the Birmingham Police Department, adding that the murder was senseless and unnecessary. "Based on Mr. Dacus' reputation, he would have given you his last."
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"It's disheartening to see someone this young go to this level of violence,'' Edwards added. "To me, what he did to that elderly gentleman is evil at its finest."
Birmingham police responded to a call saying someone was on fire, finding the senior burned at the scene. He was pronounced dead, and witnesses told police they saw a man running down the street with a red gas can. Authorities arrested the man a short distance from the crime scene.
Police said that the suspect has confessed to the murder, but investigators are still seeking a motive.
"The suspect actually confessed to this crime but we have not received any logical justification to explain what happened," said A.C. Roper, chief of the Birmingham Police Department.
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Dacus, who was reportedly beloved by neighbors, was "the most kindhearted gentleman you ever met," said Gary Dacus, one of the veteran's three sons, AL.com reports.
Neighbor Helen McComb said she witnessed the veteran burning in his backyard. "I lost it," said McComb. "He's been here forever. People here loved Mr. Gene."
"My father's death is a tragic loss,'' Gary said. "The community lost one of its pillars."
Sims is being held without bail.