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Man found dead at St. Petersburg apartment complex was a homicide victim, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — Bryan Francis Happe lived alone and was a quiet fellow, but he was not one to miss a holiday party.

His neighbors came looking for him Monday before grilling hot dogs and hamburgers at their 18-unit apartment complex run by the Boley Centers. Days earlier, Happe, 52, had enthusiastically contributed $3 for the July Fourth gathering.

Jay Racine, 48, said he noticed that Happe's door was unlocked, but he didn't investigate further. Someone phoned Happe on Monday night, but there was no answer.

On Tuesday, police said, air conditioner repairmen entered Happe's one-bedroom apartment at 2780 First Ave. N about 1 p.m. and discovered his body. Police are investigating the death as a homicide, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

Puetz said investigators determined that Happe had been dead for at least 48 hours. They discovered evidence of trauma on Happe's upper body, Puetz said, although he declined to elaborate.

"We are, quite frankly, shocked that he was potentially murdered at our location," said Gary MacMath, president and chief executive officer of the Boley Centers, a nonprofit group that serves people with mental disabilities and the homeless. Happe had lived at the residential treatment facility since it opened in 2004 and had been a Boley client for more than 20 years, MacMath said.

"We consider him one of our success stories," MacMath said. "He had a disability that did not allow him to work, but he was very successful in maintaining a productive life."

Happe had a routine, neighbors said. He left his apartment for group therapy sessions, for shopping or to do his laundry. Mostly, he stayed indoors because he had bad knees.

Neighbors said they couldn't imagine that Happe had any enemies.

"When I first moved in, he told me, 'I prefer to just keep to myself,' and that is what he did," said Sam Sessions, 54.

Luis Perez can be reached at LPerez@sptimes.com or (727)892-2271.

CORRECTION: The facility where Bryan Francis Happe's body was found is an 18-unit apartment complex managed by the Boley Centers, a nonprofit organization that serves people with mental disabilities and the homeless. Earlier versions of this story appearing in print and online gave a different description of the facility.

Man found dead at St. Petersburg apartment complex was a homicide victim, police say 07/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 10:39pm]
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