Birmingham police have reported that an Alabama teenager has been arrested and charged with the murder of his 85-year-old Korean War vet neighbor, who he brutally killed by dousing the man with gasoline and setting him on fire behind his home.
The teenager in question is 18-year-old Thomas Sims, and authorities have charged the man with capital murder for his crime. He is currently being held without bond, and the police have stated that they are actively looking for a second suspect in the burning death of 85-year-old vet Gene Emory Dacus.
The gruesome death of the Korean War vet occurred early Wednesday morning, and authorities responded to the scene at 33rd Ave N after receiving reports that a person was on fire. The vet was discovered by the son of a neighbor, Robert Stanley, who thought that the smoke and fire billowing from behind the home was possibly an RV that had caught fire. Instead, he stumbled upon the burning body. Police found the burning remains of the victim lying on the ground in an alleyway behind the home where he had lived. Dacus’ body had been severely burned, and the Birmingham Fire and Rescue pronounced him dead at the scene.
Gene Emory Dacus had lived in that neighborhood and home for more than half a century, since the 1950s, and his death has shaken the Birmingham, Alabama, community. The authorities have reported that the burning death of the man could have been sparked by an argument between him and the 18-year-old suspect, Thomas Sims. According to the New York Daily News, Birmingham Police Lt. Sean Edwards told the media that the department is also surprised at the heinous act of violence that the teenager had committed in killing the elderly war vet.
“It’s disheartening to see someone this young go to this level of violence. To me, what he did to that elderly gentleman is evil at it’s finest.”
Another neighbor of the victim reported to the police that they had witnessed a young black man fleeing the scene with a red gasoline jug in his hand. Based on the description given by the witness, as well as the fact that the suspect had been followed and his location obtained, police were quickly able to identify Thomas Sims as a suspect and take him into custody. The teenager had already been facing prosecution and was waiting on a trial for an unrelated carjacking charge from earlier this year.
In recalling the life of Gene Dacus, relatives and neighbors alike only have fond memories and kind words to say of the murdered man. Dacus is remembered as a caring and proactive member of the community who had done his part for the people of the United States when he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Following his career in the military, he became an airplane mechanic. He was also the father of three sons, one of whom is disabled, and a 60-year-old who lived with his father up to the date of his death. Dacus’ wife, Earnestine, died back in 2005.
One of the things he was known for helping to keep the neighborhood tidy by volunteering to cut grass and picking up scrap iron and recycling material. Neighbors also said that the vet was always very kind to the children in the area. Robert Stanley fought back tears as he spoke of Dacus following his gruesome murder by burning.
“[He was] a good man, an uncomparable good man. He didn’t deserve any of that.”
Neighbors have also stated that the desperately hope that at least Gene Dacus had already been dead before he was set on fire.
The Washington Post reported that according to Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper, they have not established a motive for the killing as yet, though they do have a confession.
“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 happened.”
The fact that Thomas Sims has been charged with capital murder for the burning death means that there is a possibility that the teenager could face the death penalty.
[Image via Jefferson County Jail]