WILKES-BARRE — A city police officer returning a lost dog to a home early Friday found its owner was dead from an apparent stab wound to the back.
A search warrant affidavit and several neighbors identified the victim as 58-year-old Fred Boote.
Boote was found when an officer recovered a Golden Retriever at the Turkey Hill store on Carey Avenue, less than a mile from Boote’s home at 14 Donald Court.
A collar on the dog listed Boote’s address.
When the officer arrived at Boote’s house just before 4 a.m. with the dog, the officer noticed the front door was open several inches and lights were on. After getting no response when ringing the door bell, additional officers arrived to assist in searching the home.
Blood spatter was found on floors, a rear patio door was partially opened, the garage door was open with its lights turned on, and items appeared thrown onto the kitchen floor.
When officers searched the second floor, they found Boote’s body in a bedroom along with a large knife covered with blood and a gasoline container. The spout from the gas container was under the body, the affidavit says.
Investigators say the bedroom was in disarray, suggesting a struggle occurred.
Boote was pronounced dead at the scene by Luzerne County Chief Deputy Coroner Dan Hughes at 9:45 a.m.
Donald Court, a cul-de-sac off Willow Street in South Wilkes-Barre, has six homes with manicured lawns and private fences.
Investigators spent much of their time in the rear of the home as they were seen carrying evidence bags.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis refused to provide a statement about the investigation.
By late Friday afternoon, some of the same county detectives seen at Boote’s home were at an apartment complex on nearby Maffett Street, which seemed to be a hub of police activity.
‘Catch this animal’
The search warrant signed by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke was for an iPhone, which was found on Willow Street. The phone belonged to Boote.
Willow Street neighbor Cindy Cruikshank said she recently shared an Uber ride with Boote and described him as “one of the nicest people.”
“He was kind, he was helpful, great conversation with him,” recalled Cruikshank. “He was telling me stories. When I found out it was him, it was shocking and so painful.”
“It’s a great neighborhood, we’re all shocked and saddened by this,” added Tarra Zubey, of Willow Street. “It’s unbelievable. They’re a wonderful family. I can’t imagine who would want to hurt them.”
Cruikshank and Zubey said they consider their neighborhood “safe.”
Jim Elias, a friend of the victim, described him as one of “the nicest guys” you could meet.
“To me it’s just unbelievable that something like this would happen,” said Elias. “I just hope they catch this animal.”
An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday. Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Wilkes-Barre Police Department at 570-208-4222.