By Ashley M. Wislock, Rick Dandes and Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Hill Neighborhood residents fear a homicide after the body of a middle-aged man was found in the back yard of a Catawissa Avenue home on Tuesday.
Neither Sunbury police nor Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley would confirm late Tuesday whether the man, who Kelley said was in his 40s, was murdered.
Northumberland County District Attorney Anthony Rosini and Assistant District Attorney Ann Targonski were also at the scene.
Police Chief Steve Mazzeo did say: “We have a deceased person. It is under investigation. ... The death is questionable and we are investigating.”
City police are withholding the identification of the man pending notification of relatives.
The body was found at the rear of 240 Catawissa Ave., near an alley between Catawissa and Fairmount avenues, police said Tuesday.
Kelley pronounced the man dead at the scene at 11:49 a.m. and removed the body four hours later.
A neighbor who asked to remain anonymous said she received a text message from a relative who asked her to look in the back of the house at 240 Catawissa Ave.
“I didn’t see anything,” she said, “so I texted back and said so.”
“You need to look in the alley” came another text.
When she went into the alley near the house, she saw garbage cans that had been turned over.
“That’s when I saw the body,” she said. “There it was. I knew he was dead. It shocked the hell out of me.”
Mazzeo would only say the man was dead when police arrived, that the death was “possibly suspicious” and that homicide detectives were on the scene.
Other neighbors, who also spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said they are shocked and panicked at what they believe was a homicide.
“If this is what people are saying, then it is very scary,” a man said. “Why up here in the Hill Neighborhood?”
Sunbury police asked for assistance from state police, Mazzeo said. Troopers arrived around 1:30 p.m.
Kelley, Rosini and Targonski were huddled near a gold hatchback vehicle parked in the yard, where the body was discovered.
Sunbury police Cpl. Jaime Quinn is leading the investigation, Mazzeo said. Witnesses or those with tips are asked to call Quinn at (570) 286-4584, Extension 125, or Northumberland County Emergency Services at (570) 988-4539.
While Mazzeo would not confirm whether the death appeared to be an isolated incident, he did say: “I do not think the public is in danger.”
City police taped off the area to prevent people from getting near the home, with Mazzeo saying police didn’t know “the full extent of the crime scene.”
Other neighbors said they didn’t hear anything unusual in the area leading up to the arrival of police Tuesday morning. Many also expressed concerns about the safety of the area, which some say is usually a quiet part of the city.
“This is something you watch on TV and see in Wilkes-Barre and that area,” an unidentified woman said. “To have something like this happen here in our neighborhood is scary. I only hope it turns out to be a different story then what people are saying.”
It is not known why the man was in the yard or who owns the property.
If classified a homicide, it would be the second homicide in the Valley this year. In, the February death of 71-year-old Bonnie Jean Snook was declared a homicide with Snook’s grandson, Joshua Snook, of Sunbury, and his wife, Jennifer Snook, facing trials in Snyder County.