SPRING HILL — "My brother killed my brother,'' a sobbing woman tells a 911 dispatcher. "And he's in the f---ing back yard, in the dirt.''
The seven-minute call to the Hernando County's Sheriff's Office on Monday from the sister of Sean and Stanley Eckard was the first indication authorities had of an unfolding family tragedy at 8456 Peoria St.
Deputies arrested 21-year-old Stanley Elias Eckard on Monday night on a charge of second-degree murder. He is accused of strangling his 19-year-old brother Sean and burying the body in a shallow grave in the family's back yard.
The woman on the phone, whose identity is protected by Florida public records law, said her father was still digging into the dirt.
"He is digging him out of the ground," she said in a cracking voice. "Oh my God. He's screaming. He's over the body."
The dispatcher frequently begged her to slow down. The woman spoke several times to people in the background.
"No, don't call the police!" a male voice shouted in the background.
"You can't scare me," the sister, who does not live at the Peoria Street house, replied. "They're already on the way."
She told the dispatcher to send deputies quickly because Stanley Eckard was still talking to her mother inside the house.
"My brother's here, and if he sees us digging up the body he's going to f---ing kill us all."
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According to Hernando County Sheriff's Office records, Stanley Elias Eckard admitted Monday to strangling his brother Sean.
The arrest affidavit states he planned to move the body when his parents went out of town in a few weeks. Authorities have not released information about what motivated the killing.
Deputies booked Eckard into the Hernando County Jail at 10:30 p.m. Monday, where he is being held without bail.
Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent said the mother, Donna Eckard, saw Stanley digging a hole in the yard at 3 a.m. Saturday. When she asked him what he was doing, he said he was burying his ex-girlfriend's clothes because he was tired of seeing them, Nugent said.
But then Sean Eckard didn't come home.
"The last time anybody saw him was Friday night," the sister said in the 911 call. "I said, 'Mom, we need to dig up that hole. What's in that hole?' "
Samuel Eckard went out back, the Sheriff's Office said, and dug into the hole, where he first uncovered his son's arms and legs. The remains were not dismembered, said Sgt. Donna Black.
Deputies exhumed the body Tuesday. They waited a day so they would have enough daylight to dig up the body and collect evidence. The autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Friends and relatives set up a small memorial outside the yellow crime scene tape Tuesday, including a dozen red roses and a neon-green poster that read: "Our Angel."
Another poster said: "Sean Eckard was our everything" and listed qualities he would be remembered by. It said Eckard was an animal lover who wanted to be a therapist and help patients in rehabilitation.
"He had many friends that adore him," the poster said. "He will be missed."
Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, the county's chief homicide prosecutor, said he planned to review the evidence to see whether the case merits a charge of first-degree murder. A charge of second-degree murder indicates the crime was neither premeditated nor occurred during the course of another felony.
A grand jury will determine charges within the next month.
Stanley Eckard could face the death penalty if charged with first-degree murder. A charge of second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In 2007, Stanley Eckard was arrested on a felony fraud-related charge, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Both brothers dropped out of F.W. Springstead High School, said family friend Christian Quinones.
School records show Stanley Eckard was enrolled from August 2005 to May 2006. Sean Eckard was enrolled from August 2005 to September 2007.
In February, Sean enrolled in the district's adult education program.
Samuel and Donna Eckard both work at Grace Presbyterian Church. Samuel is a custodian, and Donna works in the nursery.
Earlier in his life, a severe brain condition left Sean Eckard in a coma, said Quinones, 18. Eckard recovered late last year, Quinones said, though he'd lost weight.
Sean briefly worked a maintenance job with Quinones at Texas Roadhouse in Brooksville but had to stop because he often fell ill.
The Eckard's home number has been disconnected, and relatives declined to comment.
Staff writers Tony Marrero and Joel Anderson contributed to this report.
Laura J. Nelson can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or [email protected]