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On the afternoon of Jan. 11, a resident of Covington Lane called 911.
“I just found a dead body in my backyard,” the resident told an operator.
There had been vultures behind the home, but not many, so it didn’t seem suspicious, the resident said, according to a recording of the 911 call.
“But something’s been bugging me to just go out there and check it out, so I did just now, and I, um — ” she paused. “Denny is there.”
The resident referenced her former neighbor, a man who was staying at 18 Covington Lane, the house behind which a badly decomposed body was found Friday. The case is being investigated as a homicide.
The man was suspected missing in December, but an investigation revealed nothing suspicious, said Lt. Bob Weber, public information officer for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
Still, Denny, whose last name is unknown, disappeared from Covington Lane residents’ sights quickly, so some neighbors questioned whether the body found behind his former residence was his.
The man living in the house at 18 Covington Lane was friends with its owner, Weber said. The homeowner told officials that the man had been staying at his home for about a year, according to Sheriff’s Office documents.
On Dec. 31, the homeowner reported that man missing. The homeowner had last talked to the man about two weeks prior, and he knew the man was trying to find a new place to live, and could have moved without calling.
The investigation quickly ended.
“Basically, a person was living in that house who, by indications from the homeowners, was somewhat transient,” Weber said. “Anything alluding to the fact that this is the same person (as the one found) is highly speculative,” Weber said, noting that no identification of the body found has been made yet.
No missing person report was filed for the man.
When an operator asked the resident who placed the 911 call whether she could identify the body she found, the caller said she couldn’t, but that she knew the man living at 18 Covington Lane had “gone missing.”
Neighbors said they remembered the man as being friendly and kind. Eva Larsson, who lives nearby, said she met him each morning as she walked with her husband and he walked to a local gas station to buy coffee.
They would say hello to each other, sometimes talking briefly, she said. He didn’t seem like the type to attract trouble.
But, Weber said, without an identity made by investigators, the rumors that the body found on Covington Lane belongs to the man who once lived there are just that: rumors.
So, officials are moving forward with their investigation, conducted by the Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime scene unit, the State Attorney’s Office’s Homicide Investigation Unit and the medical examiner under contract with Flagler County.
Each arm of the investigation brings specific expertise, Weber said. Those who respond first are on alert for things on the scene, no matter how small, that could illuminate the case.
“You’re better off getting as much as you can right at the get-go,” Weber said. “You take as many things as you think may be of value to you in creating a successful investigation. In certain situations, you can’t go back to the crime scene again.”
That’s why it is imperative that the crime scene be kept pure during initial investigations, so that no trace evidence — hair or fibers — are introduced to the scene. Investigators collect as much evidence as they can and document the scene fully.
Flagler County investigators are trained in the Daytona State College School of Emergency Services in crime scene investigation and preservation.
After initial crime scene analysis, investigators conduct interviews, execute search warrants and send pieces of evidence to labs for analysis, Weber said.
Ultimately, the goal is that with vigilance, interviews and evidence will piece together a story of who the man found is and what happened to him.
“To take this multidimensional approach to conducting investigations, is very beneficial,” Weber said, referencing the involvement of FDLE and State Attorney’s officials. “People with different specializations can help how they can. If you think about it, these people do this every day.”