Teen Neighbor Charged with Capital Murder in Slaying of Burned Elderly Veteran

Carol Robinson, AL, August 18, 2016

A teen neighbor of an elderly Korean War veteran found burned to death in the back yard of his North Birmingham home is now charged in the brutal slaying.

Thomas Sims, an 18-year-old already awaiting trial in connection with an armed carjacking earlier this year, is charged with capital murder and held on no bond. He is charged in the killing of 85-year-old Gene Emory Dacus, affectionately called “Mr. Gene” by his neighbors.

Thomas Sims

Thomas Sims

Authorities said the capital murder charge stems from the theft of the victim’s truck. Detectives are actively searching for a second suspect.

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Birmingham police were called to Dacus’ home on 33rd Avenue North Wednesday morning around 12:30 a.m. after receiving calls about a person on fire. When they arrived on the scene, they found the elderly man burned in the back of his home. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Gene Emory Dacus

Gene Emory Dacus

Edwards said witnesses told police they saw a fire in the yard before seeing a man running down a nearby alley with a red gasoline jug. Police arrested that man a short distance from the crime scene.

Edwards said that the preliminary investigation shows the suspect and the victim had an argument, before the victim was doused with gasoline and set on fire.

“This homicide shocks the conscience of any reasonable person. Our hearts are hurting for the victim, his family and our community,” said Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper. “The suspect actually confessed to this crime but we have not received any logical justification to explain what happened.”

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Friends, neighbors and the victim’s son, Gary Dacus, spoke with AL.com Wednesday about Dacus’ life and his death. “He was the most kindhearted gentleman you ever met,” said Gary Dacus, one of the victim’s three sons. ” He never met a stranger, and he helped anybody he could.”

Even at 85, Dacus made it his priority to tidy the neighborhood. He cut his neighbors’ grass, and they watched out for him. “He was very sweet to all of the children,” McComb said. “He kept our neighborhood clean.”

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Gary Dacus said he received the heartbreaking news about his father’s death and immediately drove to Birmingham. “I got the call, and I just broke down,” he said.

He said the suspect hit his father in the head, left the scene and then returned and set him on fire to try to conceal the crime. “The only thing I can hope to God for is that he was dead before he was burned,” the emotional son said. {snip}

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