JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An elderly man was killed in a house fire late Tuesday night in the Englewood area, and a witness reported seeing another man set the home on fire, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Jacksonville Fire-Rescue was called to the home in the 3600 block of Mimosa Drive around 11 p.m. When firefighters arrived, the house was fully engulfed in flames
IMAGES: House fire kills homeowner
JFRD found one man inside the home and pulled him to a rescue truck, where he was pronounced dead.
A neighbor said the man was 83-year-old Robert Levey. He lived in the home for 30 years with about 12 cats. The neighbor suspected some of the cats also died in the fire.
"I was asleep and police woke me up and said he passed away. I was devastated. I worked with him all day yesterday. Me and him was helping people move and do scrap work and hanging out. Devastating," said William Townsend, who lived nearby.
A witness reported seeing a man wearing a green shirt set the fire. JSO was called out to investigate. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.
The suspect JSO is looking for is a white man about 5 feet 6 to 7 inches tall weighing 120 pounds, wearing a shirt and shorts, shoulder-length brown hair, in his late teens or early 20s and possibly wearing a black and white backpack, according to Sgt. Waters. Originally, the witness reported the suspect's shirt was green, but now police said they're not certain that's the correct color.
"I think it's ridiculous, it's crazy, it's outrageous. Who would do something like this? Poor man was 83, bothered nobody, rescued his cats, stayed at home, helped children out, went to the flea market, stayed to himself, nice guy," said Karri Jones, who also lived nearby.
"Total devastation, just totally devastated," said Joey Townsend, a friend and neighbor of the victim. "I can't understand why anyone would hurt an old man like that."
"I lost my friend, my real good friend," Townsend added. "Me and him were like peas and carrots, man."
At times, Townsend said Levey was like a father figure, perhaps to most in the neighborhood. He said Levey was a prominent fixture. Townsend said Levey loved to collect neighbors used or unwanted items and re-gift them.
"We would collect toys, clean them up and give them to a kid around here," Townsend said.
Neighbors say Levey retired as an engineer at a local TV station. Investigators would not say if he was killed before the fire or as a result of the fire.
The state Fire Marshal's Office is also investigating the death.
If anyone has information about the killing, call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.
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